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The Tanka People of China, ancient surfers?

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posted on Jan, 22 2014 @ 12:59 AM
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 traits.

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 time!

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

posted on Jan, 22 2014 @ 01:15 AM
Really great thread! I'd never heard of the Tanka before, so I'm glad to have learned something new.
There are some very unusual cultures and life styles on our planet. I wonder how many of them will become 'modernized'.


posted on Jan, 22 2014 @ 08:08 AM
More permanent Tanka dwellings,

not completely on boats, but not completely on land either.

posted on Jan, 22 2014 @ 07:58 PM
reply to post by tanda7

Delightful Thank you.


posted on Jan, 22 2014 @ 08:03 PM
I had hoped for more insights from other members throughout the day.

Great topic tanda. To me, if i talk about it later in the day with someone, it is a great topic. I talked about this one a few times.

posted on Jan, 22 2014 @ 08:51 PM
Thanks everyone,

Lots of info here if anyone is interested.

Tests on the DNA of the Tanka people found that the disease Cooley's anemia+ was common among the Tanka. Tests also stated that the ancestors of the Tanka were not Han Chinese, but were native people.

And more images

edit on 22-1-2014 by tanda7 because: eta

posted on Jan, 25 2014 @ 02:27 AM
Never heard of the Tanka. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this.

posted on Jan, 25 2014 @ 12:32 PM
reply to post by bigfatfurrytexan

Since the OP I've learned this,

Giant waves created by earthquakes do not create a wave with a face. If you were out at a sea, especially near the epicenter, you would just bob up and down. So you would not be carried much distance.

However a giant wave created by something making an entry into the ocean would create a wave with a face, but this face would be traveling 500 miles per hour. A meteor or a giant ice shelf falling would do it.

With the right craft, it's feasible that you could "surf " the face for a distance and then top the wave, then a while later another comes and you repeat the process. The only craft I can envision doing this would be a very small, hydrodynamic personal craft, like a sea kayak.

Or maybe like this one found in Maui

If you were from a culture where waves were common like Hawaii, maybe you would know how to navigate in this situation.
What a ride that would be.

edit on 25-1-2014 by tanda7 because: eta

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