There exist in China a culture of Boat People known as the Tanka. Until recently, they've remained separate from mainland society and culture. Most
lived their entire lives without ever stepping on land. They live in small boats grouped together forming communities and occupy hundreds of miles of
Chinese and Vietnamese coastline.
They've worked and lived on the water for generations.
In Chinese history they have not been considered Chinese people. The Chinese Qing government (1644 to 1912) classified them as a "mean" or
substandard ethnic group.
Much was written about them during British occupation and they were renown for their floating brothels which enthusiastically served foreigners. They
were known to posses very little national pride, as they did not consider themselves to be Chinese. They were self reliant and unaffected by most
mainland concerns. They were expert fisher people and business savvy.
The Tanka may have existed as a separate ethnic group for as long as written history, or at least 7000 years. There are many theories about their
ethnic origins. Some believe they were forced onto boats by land-stealing warlords, others say they are the descendants of Gingis Khan's hoard, who
fled onto boats to avoid execution.
One theory that really captured my imagination is the theory that they arrived on waves.
Apparently waves are a common theme in Tanka lore. They have superstitions about being swept away by waves if they spend too much time on land, and
folk tales about Tanka people arriving and departing because of waves.
Incidentally, many cultures from Malaysia to Papua New Guinea have legends of people arriving on waves. Some tribes in New Guinea claim to be the
descendants of an ancestral mother who landed on their shores.
I've read in some travel blogs that people have observed characteristics in the Tanka that resemble Polynesian or Aborigine
I find it compelling to imagine early Tanka people being pushed across the ocean by tidal waves, from various locations.
Imagine starting out on a run to a familiar island or port then finding yourself shipwrecked thousands of miles away, in record
As much as I want to believe this theory, I'm not sure if it is feasible.
Anyway I thought this was a fascinating idea. I would love to hear if any anthropology scholars have an opinion.
I found this video of a day in the life of a Tanka boy from 1980
edit on 22-1-2014 by tanda7 because: sp