The purpose of this Tai Dehong/Neua website it to provide some basic information and authentic texts dealing with this important Tai language spoken in the northwestern part of Yunnan province in China. The Chinese governement has given the people of the region autonomous status: The Dehong Dai - Jinpgpo Autonomous Prefecture. To the south and west of the prefecture lies Burma, where the Tai population are known as Shan. Hence, the Dehong are often referred to as "Chinese Shan," i.e., Shan living in China. They, however, call themselves tai2 le6, which literally means "upper or northern Tai." The Siamese or Thai of Thailand call them Tai Neua. (the Thai word nfa5 and Dehong le6 are cognates; Thai n becomes Dehong d~l and the Thai diphthong fa becomes Dehong e.). The meaning of the word "Dehong" is debatable. Some claim that it means tai hong /taf4 xoN2/ 'under or beneath the Hong River', i.e., the Salaween or Nu River.
Two kinds of kinds texts are presented on this web site: a traditional Jataka manuscript written in old Dehong script* on mulberry paper; and two illustrated booklets printed in modern, reformed typescript. The contrast between the old and new script is explained in this website's section on phonology. A map of the keyboard of modern typescript has been constructed for site users who wish to type in modern Dehong.
Dehong, like other Tai minority languages in China, is a dying language. Traditional Dehong writing came with the spread of Buddhism and its revival depends on religious revival. The Cultural Revolution caused a cessation of the practice of Buddhism in China. Buddhism can now be practiced again, but many traditions have been lost, including the transmission of literacy in Dehong. It is hoped that this modest web site will assist in preservation of the language or even its revival. Users are encouraged to contribute materials to this internet resource.
For additional information on Tai Dehong, an excellent article entitled "Reflections on Tai Dehong Society from Language Point of View" appears in Journal of Language and Linguistics:18.2 (Jan.- June 2000) pp. 71-82.
*The manuscript was donated to the Northern Illinois University Library Rare Books Collection by the Lue Temple in Rockford, Illinois in a ceremony conducted at the temple on September 7, 2003.