Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The Chinese include the Kong Ge as part of the Bulang nationality, a point that does not sit well with the Kong Ge. The Kong Ge refuse to intermarry with the Bulang and separated from them many generations ago. "So far, scholars are divided about their identity. ... Their dark complexion and thick lips gave me the impression that I was among a tribe in Africa."
The ancestors of today's Kong Ge in Xishuangbanna claim to have migrated from an area near Simao 300 to 400 years ago. At that time they were part of the Bulang minority. Their legend tells how two Kong Ge families came to the area where they now live. One of the wives had a baby, so they decided to remain. The first Kong Ge village was called Man Ba Boo. The people were so successful at growing cotton that many outsiders joined their village.
The Kong Ge are hardworking agriculturists, harvesting rice, corn, rubber, and cotton. Although some youngsters have married Han in recent years, most Kong Ge prefer to marry only within their tribe. It is especially forbidden to intermarry with the Bulang whom they despise. After marriage the bride always goes to live in her husband's village. Every year the Kong Ge celebrate the Spring Festival. They build a huge bonfire and celebrate the start of the new year.
Before the Communist Revolution in China the Kong Ge believed in Zao Zi, a protective spirit. The Kong Ge sacrificed a cow before planting their rice to ensure that the spirits would allow the rice to grow. Every Kong Ge family worships their ancestors. Ancestral worship ceremonies are held after the planting season to ask for a good crop.
The Kong Ge's small, isolated communities and their linguistic uniqueness have prevented them from hearing the gospel. In 1996 one researcher asked a 57-year-old Kong Ge man if he had heard of Jesus. The man thought for a while and looked puzzled. Finally, determined not to appear ignorant, he asked what nationality this Jesus was. This man is indicative of all Kong Ge. They have absolutely no awareness of the existence of the gospel, and there has never been a single known Christian believer among their tribe.