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The Negritos are a semi-nomadic group in Southeast Asia. They include the Aeta, Ati and at least 25 other tribes of the Philippines, the Semang of the Malay peninsula, the Mani of Thailand and 12 Andamanese tribes of the Andaman Islands. The Malay term for them is orang asli, or original people. They are likely the indigenous people of Southeast Asia, including New Guinea. Pygmy-sized, they are numerically and physically among the smallest as well as among the least-known of all living human groups. The Negrito peoples have one of the purest genetic pools of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) among anyone in humankind so their mtDNA serves as a baseline in studying Genetic Drift.<ref>"DNA Study Yields Clues on Early Human's First Migration" New York Times, May 13, 2005 p. A7</ref> Occasionally, some Negrito are referred to as Pygmies, bundling them with unrelated peoples of similar physical stature in Central Africa.<ref name= Britannica>Encyclopaedia Britannica: Pygmy</ref>



The word "Negrito" is the Spanish or Portuguese diminutive of Negro, i.e. "little Black", and was given by early European invaders and explorers who thought that the Negritos were from Africa. According to James J.Y. Liu, a professor of Chinese and comparative literature, the Chinese term for negrito is Kun-lun (Template:Zh-c).<ref name=liu>Liu, James J.Y. The Chinese Knight Errant. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967 (ISBN 0-2264-8688-5)</ref>


The Negritos are believed to be indigenous to the Philippines.They are distinct from the Austronesian peoples who arrived in boats or balangay (see Barangay). (See Antique, Philippines for the 1212 purchase of rights, by some Malay peoples, to settle on the island of Panay from the chief of the Negritos there).


The Negritos of the Philippines could make fire, whereas the Andamanese could not. The Semang are recorded to have made clothing of pounded tree bark, and to have lived in both caves and leaf-covered shelters.



Kunlun Nu (Template:Zh-c - "The K’un-lun Slave") was a romance written by P’ei Hsing (Template:Zh-c) (c. 880) during the Tang Dynasty. It takes place during the Ta-li reign era (766-80) of Emperor Daizong and follows the tale of a young man named Ts’ui who enlists the aide of Mo-lê,<ref>Prof. Liu states “This is the modern pronounciation. The T’ang pronounciaton was something like ‘Mua-lak’ and is said to have been taken from Arabic.” (Liu 1967: 88).</ref> his negrito slave, to help free his beloved who was forced to join the harem of a court official. At midnight, Mo-lê kills the guard dogs around the compound and carries Ts’ui on his back while easily jumping to the tops of walls and bounding from roof to roof. With the lovers reunited, Mo-lê leaps over ten tall walls with both of them on his back. Ts’ui and his beloved are able to live happily together in peace because the official believes she was kidnapped by Chinese knights-errant and did not want to make trouble for himself by pursuing them. However, two years later, one of the official’s attendants sees the girl in the city and reports this. The official arrests Ts’ui and, once he hears the entire story, sends men to capture the negrito slave. But Mo-lê escapes with his dagger (apparently his only possession) and flies over the city walls to escape apprehension. He is seen over ten years later selling medicine in the city, not having aged a single day.<ref name=liu/>

Mo-lê’s gravity defying abilities and agelessness suggests the fictional character might have been a practitioner of esoteric life-prolonging exercises akin to Chinese immortals. According to a tale attributed to the Taoist adept Ge Hong, some hunters in the Zhongnan Mountains saw a naked man whose body was covered in black hair. Whenever they tried to capture him he “leapt over gullies and valleys as if in flight, and so could not be overtaken."<ref name=camp>Campany, Robert Ford. To Live As Long As Heaven and Earth: Ge Hong’s Traditions of Divine Transcendents. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002 (ISBN 0-520-23034-5)</ref> After finally ambushing the man, the hunters learned it was in fact a 200 plus year old woman who had learned the arts of immortality from an old man in the forest.<ref name=camp/> Still, it was popular in folktales for immortals to sell medicine in the city, just like Mo-lê did. The hagiography of the immortal Hu Gong (Sire Gourd) says he sold medicine in the market place during the day and slept in a gourd hanging in his stall at night.<ref name=camp/>


Futher Reading

  • Snow, Philip. The Star Raft: China's Encounter With Africa. Cornell Univ. Press, 1989 (ISBN 0801495830)



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