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Teaching children to love good manners
1. Don't look down upon or disrespect that which you do not understand and don't argue with adults or elders--It is a sin.
2. When visitors come to the house you must not be loud or whiny.
3. When visitors come to the house you must not eat at the same table as the adult guests.
4. When visitors come to the house you must go play far away and not disturb the adults while they are talking.
5. When visitors come to the house the daughter of the house must help her mother make food for the guests.
6. If you walk in front of an adult you must bend down and lower your head, passing by quietly.
7. When visitors come to the house get a chair out for them to sit on and serve them water, or invite them into the house.
8. If you have to sweep while visitors are at the house, you must sweep very lightly, taking care not to let any dust blow onto the guests.
Taught to help others
In general, children are taught to help others and to be generous and kind to those who don't have enough to eat or a place to live. Children are taught never to think maliciously of others or to be jealous of them. Thinking evil thoughts towards others may actually hurt us rather than the other person. If we always think badly of others it will make us wary of others and we will be unhappy. Wherever we go no one will want to be our friend. One of the main vehicles for teaching these lessons are fables, legends and witty stories about people who think maliciously towards others. The stories are meant to capture the hearts and imagination of the listener, making them sympathize with the characters. The more vivid the story, the more it will strike at the listener's conscience, making them want to be good people. Lisu teach their children to do good. In Lisu this is called, " La ko ma moo nee mua," which means, "don't think maliciously towards others." Whether you do good or bad, and whether someone sees you or not, remember the spirits are always watching. Thus, you should not steal from others or think maliciously of them, regardless of whether they realize what you have done or not, because the spirits are always watching us. Children will be told this often, before bed and during play, helping shape them into caring and conscientious adults.
Teaching children about the Ah bpa mo hee (Spirit house)
Chldren are taught how to behave during sacred ceremonies held at the Ah bpa mo hee (Spirit house). Boys will be taught that they can run around in the area surrounding the Ah bpa mo hee. Girls will be taught they are not allowed to go and play around the Ah bpa mo hee. Boys will be allowed to go with adults to participate in special ceremonies and they will be taught how to carry out each of the ceremonies. Ceremonies generally begin with lighting incense sticks. Respect should then be paid to the spirits. In this place one must be polite in speech, thought, and action; not thinking maliciously of others. Cutting down trees in the area surrounding the Ah bpa mo hee is prohibited, as the Ah bpa mo likes tranquility and shade.
How to act during the New Year's Festival
As the New Year approaches the Lisu will take extra special care to be on their best behavior and to keep the area around their houses meticulously clean. This is because the Lisu believe that during this time an angel will come down and inspect how orderly everything is. Those whose houses are clean and only those people will be blessed with, "the enduring presence of the spirits of gold and silver." In other words, these houses will thrive financially and will never be found lacking. The members of these households will prosper in their work. Any houses found in a disorderly state will be cursed and the inhabitants will find themselves poor and destitute. In general, everyone is expected to help do their part to keep the house clean. The Lisu believe that the spirit of silver and the spirit of gold desire cleanliness. The spirit of silver and the spirit of gold will not remain in an unkempt house. If this weren't enough of a reason to clean your house, during the New Year's celebrations it can be expected that relatives will come from all around to visit your home, filling your house and doing their own little assessments of the cleanliness of your place. Children are told in advance that when they have visitors to the house they are forbidden from whining or begging.
Teaching by doing and direct experience
Children must pay close attention to both their parents and the elders in the village to learn the right ways to act and respond to real world situations. These elders are full of the wisdom and knowledge that years of experience in life bring. As children follow their parents and other elders through the routines of daily life, they naturally absorb these lessons. Following their parents out into the fields, for example, they not only learn how to farm, and how to behave in the field, but most importantly how to respect the spirits. Once a year the Lisu must perform a ceremony, known as ah mee nee goo. Performed before the seeds are sown, the purpose of this ceremony is to implore the spirits to bless the harvest and make it plentiful. A chicken will be sacrificed to the ah mee nee (spirit of the fields) to pay homage and as a sign of reverence and respect. The children, who naturally love to follow their parents out into the fields, will participate in the ceremony and learn from direct experience how the ceremony is performed and why it is important. Through activities such as these, children learn both how to farm and how to respect the spirits.
Being taught how to work in the fields and how to raise animals
How to farm: Parents take their children out into the fields from a very early age to
1. Show them how to feed and sustain themselves. The children will help with the easier tasks. A certain proverb speaks to the logic of this: "Go and watch someone else working, don't go and watch someone else eating." The point is, children should be taught how to take care of themselves. To do this they should watch how others are able to provide for themselves and keep food on the table. Children should not just watch someone enjoying a hardy meal. This is because no one anywhere is able to eat without working.
2. How to feed animals: Children are given responsibility for feeding the family's animals. Generally, this will either be chicken, pigs, or both. The children will feed the chickens on corn and rice husk, and the pigs on corn. The pigs will be fed once in the morning and once in the evening. On days when children go out to help their parents in the field, they will be expected to help carry the food for the pigs back from the fields. This might be corn, banana tree, or grass. The weight of the sack will be varied according to the size and strength of the child. By training children to raise and take care of animals they are able to take part in helping their parents feed the family.
Children are taught what to do if they get lost in the forest
In the past, the forests surrounding the villages were thick with vegetation and, once inside, it was often impossible to see a way out. The Lisu believe that if you are lost in the forest and can't find your way home you should take off your shirt, turn it inside out, and then put it back on again; you will then find the way out. Of course it's better if you can remember the path you came on, leaving markers along the way to signal the right way.
Children are taught how to implore the spirits of the pathways, of the forest, and of the mountains
Before going out to hunt or to sleep overnight in the forest, a Lisu must first ask permission from the spirits of the land, the pathways, the forests, and the mountains. The request will also ask the spirits for protection from evil things, not allowing anything to befall them as they go about the hunt or are sleeping. The person asking for the spirit's permission will roll tobacco into a cigarette and light it. The cigarette will be accompanied by incense sticks and placed in the house to burn, pointing in the direction of the place in the forest where the person will be hunting or sleeping.