Yunnan has 26 nationalities (minorities) out of a total of 56 nationalities
in all of China. Each of them has his own language and forklore. Here People
show a rich-colour ethnic album by their unique history and culture, local customs
and traditional festivals.
In observe and participating in the festivals and traditional ceremonies of
the minority nationalities, you can understand many folkways and customs: religious
beliefs, fairy tales and legends, dances and songs, recreation and amusement,
and cultural psychology. Their festivals and ceremonies reflect their different
life styles, productive habits, ideological concept and social structures constituted
under different periods of history, different areas with different cultural
Yunnan's nationalities are very different from one another. Most people came
back from Yunnan said no other place on earth has as much diversity in such
a small area as that in Yunnan.
THE WA PEOPLE
The Wa nationality has a population of 347,000. Most of them live in the Cangyuan
and Ximeng WA Autonomous Counties. Some of them live in other counties as Menglian,
Lancang, Shuangjiang and Zhenkang.
The WA people live in bambo houses similar in shape to those of the Dai people.
In Ximeng County, the men wear collarless jackets, short and loose pants, and
black or red cloth headwrappers. The women wear collarless jackets and skirts
with red, blue and black stripes. Usually, they wear silver or thin bamboo rings
on the heads and rattan hoops around their waists and calves. They also love
to put on big earrings, thick necklaces and silver bangles. Their ornaments
could find their prototypes in the bronze articles unearthed in Yunnan. The
WA women are good at weaving. Most of the jackets and skirts are made by themselves.
The WA people are hospitable and warm to their guests. When guests enter their
house, they will be entertained with wine in bamboo cups as a token of welcome
The WA people like bitter tea which is very refreshing. Before being served,
it is boiled in an pottery pot. It is dark brown in colour and bitter in taste.
The " Cerui " month in the WA calendar, usually equivalent to December,
is the time for pulling the wooden drum. On the eve of the festival, the headman
and " moba " ( priest ) of the village go to a tall tree, making offerings,
chanting incantations to expel evils. Then the moba brandishes an ax, making
a few cuts on the trunk. All the rest villagers (males) fell it. They put three
stones on the root crotch as a token of payment to the tree ghost for its lumber.
They cut the trunk into the size of a wooden drum they need. On the next morning,
the villagers put on their best costumes and go up the mountain to pull the
log. The moba who guides the procession with twig sings the song of pulling
the wooden drum. People scatter rice and splash wine on the ground as they are
pulling along the wooden drum. The log is left at the entrance of the village
for two or three days. After fortune telling with sacrificed cock, the moba
determined the time for piercing a bull and sacrificing a pig. When the ceremony
is over, the log is brought in front of the Wooden Drum House for the carpenters
to make a drum out of it. The drumstick is like a pestle. In beating the drum,
the drummer ( a man always ) pounds the drum with the drumstick in a vertical
way. In pulling it, both men and women participate in. There are many other
activities involved. The whole program lasts for hours.
THE ZHUANG PEOPLE
The Zhuang nationality in both Yunnan and Guangxi are the descendants of one
of the branches of the ancient Baiyue people. With a population of 1,003,000
people, they reside compactly in eight counties in Wenshan Prefecture and live
scattered in the prefectures of Honghe, Qujiang and Zhaotong.
The climate of over 70% of the areas inhabited by the Zhuangs belongs to a subtropical
type, suitable for two or three crops a year; "Kaihua (the present-day
Wenshan) pseudo-ginseng" ("sanqi"), a very famous medicinal herb
in domestic and international markets, is chiefly cultivated by them. The areas
inhabited by the Zhuangs have a developed textile industry and handicrafts.
The women are skilled in weaving the Zhuang cloth and Zhuang brocade and making
The Zhuang men's costumes are more or less the same as the Hans'. The Zhuang
women's wear is colourful and varied. They love to embroider colourful designs
of birds, animals and flowers on the hat, the bib and the shoes.
The Zhuangs are good singers and dancers. The time-honoured Bronze Drum Dance
is energetic and strong in rhythm.
The Zhuangs living in Guangnan County are fond of glutinous rice. Local people
present glutinous rice to each other as a wish for happiness and good luck on
THE MIAO PEOPLE
The Miao nationality has a population of 896,000 people. The Miao people are
scattered over eighty-seven counties and municipalities throughout the province.
Most of them inhabit the prefectures of Wenshan, Honghe and Zhaotong.
The Miao's dress and ornament vary from place to place. Usually, men have their
heads wrapped with a piece of doth and wear a short garment and trousers.
Women's wear is colourful in design and various in pattern. They are good at
weaving, embroidery and batik. Their excellent craftsmanship has won wide
acclaim at home and abroad.
The Miaos are good dancers and singers. On the annual Huashan Festival (Caihuashan
or Stepping on Flowery Mountains held on the sixth of the sixth lunar month),
the young people sing (in antiphonal style) and dance together, accompanied with
drums and "lusheng" (a reed pipe). It is said that, in ancient times, Miao
people were distressed over their life. Once on this date, their ancestors made
appearance and told them not to be saddened too much. Then they cheered up and
danced around a tree. Suddenly a flower dropped to the tree from heaven. That
made the m happier and they danced more merrily. That year they had a bumper
harvest. This is the origin of the festival. The celebration includes antiphonal
singing, reedpipe dancing, bull fighting, dragon dance performances and climbing
the flower pole match in which the champion is awarded a pig head.
THE SHUI PEOPLE
The Shui nationality in Yunnan has a population of over 7,688 people, mainly
residing in Huangnihe District of Fuyuan County and the districts Dahe and
Long'an in Yiliang County.
The Shuis in Yunnan and those in San du of Guizhou originally belonged to the
same nationality, evolving from a branch of the ancient Luoyue people of the
Baiyue. As they migrated to Yunnan a long time ago and have long separated
themselves from the Shuis living in Sandu, their language and custom have become
different from those of the Shuis in Sandu. Influenced by the neighbouring Buyi,
Zhuang and Miao nationalities, the Shuis culture and custom are somewhat similar
to those of the Buyi.
THE BUYI PEOPLE
Having migrated from Guizhou and Guangxi, the Buyi nationality in Yunnan has a
population of over 34,000 people and resides mainly in Luoping, Fuyuan and
They usually live compactly in the plains or villages close to t he river basins.
Several types of houses, namely the stilted house, half-stilted house and
single-storey house, are typical of the Buyi's housing. The first two types are
the Buyi's traditional construction patterns, known as the "stilt foundation
style" house since ancient times. It is simple in structure and artistic in
The Buyi like blue, green, black and white clothes. The man wears a vest
buttoning down the front, a pair of long trousers and a scarf. The woman wears
an upper garment with buttons down the right. In a few places, young women like
to wear trimmed short sleeveless blouses with buttons in the middle and trousers
together with various silver ornaments.
Buyi women are good at weaving, embroidery and batik. Their decorative patterns
are colourful and distinctive. Their decorative art is a precious heritage to
the cultural treasure-house of the Chinese civilization.
The Buyi have many traditional virtues. To respect the aged is a social morality
of the nationality.
THE YAO PEOPLE
The Yao with a population of 173,OOO people mainly inhabit the counties of Hekou,
Maguan, Jinping, Funing, Guangnan, Malipo, Qiubei, Yuanyang, Luchun and Honghe,
and a small number of them are scattered over the counties of Mengla,
Jiangchange and Jingdong.
The Yaos' customs have their own traditional features characterized by their
costumes. The women are skilled at embroidery and they embroider fine flower
patterns on the cuffs, edges of their clothes as weH as on the bottoms of their
trousers. A man wraps his head with a pi ece of red or green cloth, wears a
collarless garment that buttons down the front with a sleeveless padded jacket
over it and a pair of loose pants.
The Yao youth enjoy freedom of love. They come into contact with each other in
antiphonal singing and then the day of their wedding will be set once they get
the permission of their parents.
The Danu Festival, Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Jerky Festival, Pure
Brightness Festival and Freshly Harvested Rice Festival are observed by the Yaos.
The Danu Festival, also named King Pan's Festival or the Yao New Year's Day, is
the grandest of all.
THE HUI PEOPLE
Widely scattered over the counties and municipalities throughout the province,
the Hui nationality has. a population of 522,000 people. Though widely
scattered, they live in compact communities.
Since the Huis have long been living harmoniously with the other nationalities
in the province, they have no great difference in the way of dressing themselves
from other local nationalities. For example, in the areas inhabited by both the
Huis and Bais, the former's costumes are the same as the latter's. In Diqing
Prefecture, it is quite difficult to tell the Huis from the Tibe tans; in
Xishiuangbanna, the Hui women look in no way different from the Dai women in
dressing. Despite the fact that the Huis share similar costumes with other local
nationalities, they still stick to their own customs and ways of life. It is
evidently a strong feature of the Hui nationality to strictly observe their
The Huis generally use the spoken and written language of the Hans except a few
imams and religious professionals, who use Arabic.
Their major festivals are the Bairan, Corban and Molid Nabawi and all their
festivals are closely linked with Islam.
THE MONGOLIAN PEOPLE
Inhabiting compactly the beautiful Jiluhu Lake area, the Mongolian nationality
has a population of over 13,000 people. They are the descendants of the
Mongolian horsemen left behind since Kublai Khan's conquest of Yunnan.
The Mongolians in Yunnan are good at farming and fishing as well as civil
construction. Their language is somewhat similar to that of the Mongolians in
North China. About fifty or sixty years ago, men used to wear robes. Women liked
to wear clothes with trimmed cuffs and high collars, similar to those of the
Mongolian women in Inner Mongolia. Some women, however, button a line of silver
coins as the side of the sleeveless jackets, others embroider the collars,
sleeves and aprons with various trimmings and designs distinctive in style and
pleasing to the eye.
Apart from the Nadam Fair, a traditional Mongolian festival, they also observe
the festivals of other nationalities in their neighbourhood.
THE ACHANG PEOPLE
Ninety percent of the 27,000 Achang people are distributed in Husa District of
Longchuan County and Zhedao and Dachang Districts of Lianghe County. The rest
are scattered in Luxi and Longling Counties.
The Achang people like to wear black clothes. Women wear tight-fitting and long
sleeved jackets with buttons down the front, and sarongs. They also wear
headwrappings sea puttees. Girls wear trousers and plait their hair into a bun
on the crown The plait is wrapped with a piece of cloth. Men stick chrysanthemum
flowers made of red silk yarns at their breast. Boys wear white headdoth while
the married dark blue. Women are in the habit of chewing tobacco and reed
rhizome and deem black teeth beautiful.
The "Husa knife" is a long-famed handicraft of the Achangs. The young man
usually wears a "Husa knife (or sword)", sometimes inlaid and silver. It is both
a tool and a necessary ornament.
THE TIBETAN PEOPLE
The Tibetans in the province have a population of 11,000 people. They compactly
reside in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture with a small number of them
scattered over the counties of Lijing, Gongshan and Yongsheng.
They are the descendants of the Qiang people, an ancient nomadic tribe. The life
at precipitous highlands with frigid weather in northwestern Yunnan where they
reside makes them strong, brave and hard working. Their dresses are the same as
those of the Tibetans living in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The Tibetans are mainly engaged in animal husbandry and they all live on the
To present a "hada" is regarded by the Tibetans as a ceremony of showing one's
supreme esteem. A 'hada" is usually a piece of white gauze or silk. A "hada" is
always presented to the interviewer so as to show respect.
The Tibetan people believe in Lamaism Their festivals are mostly associated with
the religion. On the day just before the Eve of the Tibetan New Year, every
family would dump rubbish in the western direction at sunset. In doing so they
think rubbishy things would disappear with the setting sun. On the Eve of the
Tibetan New year, food, such as milk cake, hand-picking meat and blood sausage
are prepared. The ceremonies of Lighting the Dragon Lantern and Burning Cypress
Rosin are observed on the New Years Day. On that occasion, everybody will put on
the lips a bit of "zanba" flour (roast barley flour) in order to show that he is
a descendant of the "zanba" eaters. When dusk falls, young people celebrate the
year of bumper harvest by singing old folk songs and dancing the "guozhuang
dance" and "xianzi (a three-stringed plucked instrument) dance" round a bonfire.
In the first month, the pilgrims set out for the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and
the Cocks Foot Mountain. During the ~st-4th of the fourth month, the time when
Sakyamuni was believed to become the Buddha, religious celebrations are held
with blazing lanterns. The Tibetan people also participate in horse races during
the Third Month Fair in Dali and the Mule and House Fair in Ljiang in the
seventh month. Their brilliant horsemanship gains admiration and respect from
Marital Customs of the Tibetan People:
The marital customs of the Tibetan people are generally as follows. The youth of
the Tibetan nationality has greater freedom of social life before marriage. A
common way of making love and fornung wedlock is through singing local folk
songs. The "guozhuang" (a dance around the fireplace stones), called "chiladao"
in Tibetan as spoken in Ihongdian Prefecture, is a dance much liked b y the
youths. They usually convey their mutual admiration through its performance. It
is particularly the case with the Waugguojie Festival, when the young people,
dressed in bright costumes, go as agreed to the dance and to choose their
beloved companions of life. A tea party is a most grand occasion for social life
and love-making among the youth. It usually takes place in the slack farming
season or on festivals. At the tea party, they drink tea while echoing each
other's songs. Through singing the young people find their objects of adoration.
After engagement, a go-between is employed by the male party to bring presents
to the parents of the other party, seeking their agreement on the matter of
marriage. Once the agreement is obtained, a date is appointed for the wedding.
The wedding proceeds in singing, through which peoples feelings are given a
vent. Thus songs become a vehicle of emotions, adding an infinite zest to the
wedding, which will not end until midnight when the lads and girls have enjoyed
the "guozhuang dance" to their hearts content.
THE DE'ANG PEOPLE
The De'ang nationality, formerly known as "Benglong", has a population of 15,000
people. They live mainly in Santai Mountain in Luxi County and in Junnong of
Zhenkang County, and the rest of them are scattered in the counties of Ruili,
Lianghe, Longchuon, Baoshan, Yongde, Gengma and Lancang.
The De'ang villages are usually set amidst dense forests and bamboo groves. They
live in stilted bamboo houses.
The De'ang people are well-known tea growers. The "dragon bamboo" ; planted by
them has a diameter of over 6 or 7 inches, an important material for building
and daily use.
The De'angs believe in Theravada Buddhism and tattoo is common among the men.
Marital Customs of the De'ang People:
Their marital customs can be roughly described like this. The love-making among
the youth of the De'ang nationality has its peculiarities. At nightfall, the
love-sick lad comes to the door of the house where lives his much-adored girl,
playing the gourd pipe with great passion or singing love songs in a low voice,
thus giving the girl a hint of his arrival. As soon as she makes out who the lad
is, she quietly opens the back door, letting him enter the house. Then she
ostensibly returns to her bedroom, and comes out to meet the lad only after a
while. She invites the guest who has already sat beside the fire to drink some
tea and chew some tobacco. The lad also eagerly returns her his own. At this
time, the girl's seniors take their leave under some pretext to allow the young
people to talk love till midnight. when it is time to depart, the lad
deliberately leaves behind his tobacco box in the girl's house, a justification
for meeting her again. If the girl does not want to go any further, she returns
to him the tobacco box on the spot, and the intention is self-evident. If the
two adore each other, then they reciprocate gifts. The lad presents the girl
with earrings, bracelets and rattan waist hoops which she likes, while the girl
presents the lad with some small things elaborately woven by herself. If no
changes occur, and the parents agree, the wedding can be arranged after the
courting has lasted two or three months.
THE BULANG PEOPLE
The 81,000 Bulang people live in the Bulang Mountains in Menghai County and the
Xiding and Bada Mountain area. Others are also distributed over the wide areas
in the counties of Zhenkang, Shuangjiang, Lincang, Lancang and Mojiang.
The Bulang people mostly inhabit the area with an elevation of 1,500 metres or
upwards. They are mainly engaged in upland agriculture, and grow cotton, shellac
The Bulang areas are famous for the cultivation of Pu'er tea. The Bulang men
wear jackets with buttons down the front, and blue loose pants. Tattooing is
common among them. The women wear close-fitting jackets and sarongs. They also
wear earrings, necklaces and bracelets, and white headcloth.
THE JINUO PEOPLE
Among the 17,000 Jinuo people, 8,000 live in the Jinuo Mountains in Jinghong
County. The rest. are scattered in Jinghong and Menghai Counties.
The Jinuo people have a long history of tea cultivation. Youle Mountain is one
of the tea growing areas of the world famous "Pu'er Tea".
The Jinuo people have retained the custom that people with the same family name
live together. That is to say, ten or twenty small families with the same family
name live together in one long house, with a big fireplace for public use in the
centre, and a small one for each family.
The Jinuo people wear self-woven clothes checkered with blue, red and black
stripes. The colours are harmonious, and look elegant and pleasing to the eye.
Men and women all wear bracelets and big earrings.
The Newly Harvested Rice Festival is observed every year by the Jinuo to
celebrate the rice harvest.
The Jinuo people favour singing and dancing. They are taught numerous
traditional tunes when very young. When they grow up they are able to sing with
words composed impromptu to the set tunes. They also like to make musical
instruments out of bamboo to accompany the Solar Drum Dances, which have a
strong rhythm. And their dance movements are unrestrained.
THE JINGPO PEOPLE
The Jingpo nationality has a population of 118,000, who mainly inhabit
mountainous areas in Dehong Prefecture and Piangugang District of Lushni County
in Nujiang Prefecture. A small number of them also live in Tengchong, Gengma and
The Jingpo men like to wear round-collared garments with buttons down the front,
their headwrappers are decorated with flower lace designs and small coloured
balls. When they set out on a journey, they would have their shoulder bags and
swords with them to show their valour and dignity. The women wear jackets and
sarongs, with necklaces of glass beads, round pieces of silver and cowrie
shells, silver earnings in the shape of a tube, and silver bracelets. A Jingpo
woman's formal attire is sewed with numerous silver bubbles and pieces. The
woman also wears a red or black lacquered rattan ring on her waist, neck, wrists
and ankles, and it is believed that the more rattan rings a woman wears, the
more beautiful she is.
The Jingpo people are lovers of wine, and they carry &q uot;pituns" (wine holders)
along with them wherever they go. When they meet their friends, they would pour
out their wine and hand them a cupful.
The jingpos like to chew tobacco, reed rhizome and betel nuts for detoxification
and relief of internal heat. When coming upon a prey or a sacrifice, anyone who
sees it would be given a share, to make the distribution equalitarian. The
Jingpos are also good singers and dancers. They sing and dance when they
celebrate a good harvest, a newly-built house, the visit of guests, a wedding
and even on burial rites. The Munao Zongge Festival (meaning a mass dance),
which is held in the first month of the year by the Chinese lunar calendar, is
the grandest and most spectacular occasion. The activities are conducted around
the four erect Munao Poles. The paterns painted on the poles portray their
provenance, Himalayas, and the route their ancestors migrate. Most wonderful
part of the festival is the scene of dancing participated by thousands of Jingpo
people. The choreographic steps and sequence follow the route as painted in the
Munao Poles. It is a festival for memorizing and honouring the ancestry.
THE DULONG PEOPLE
The Dulong nationality is one of the smallest minorities in China. It has a
population of only 5,536 people. They inhabit the Dulong River basin in the
Gongshan Autonomous County. Some of them live along the Nujiang River in the
north of Gongshan County.
They wear black and white striped gunny or cotton clothes. The man wears a pair
of short trousers and has his upper chest wrapped with a long piece of gunny
from the left armpit to the right shoulder, leaving the left shoulder uncovered.
With a crossbow and a hunting knife hanging on the waist, he appears bold and
brave. The woman loves to wear a short upper garment with a sarong and a colored
chain necklace. The Dulong woman used to tattoo her face in the past.
The brave and industrious Dulong people set much store by moral. For instance,
they often hang sacks of rice or goods on a tree branch or just lay them in a
shack by the pathway when going on a journey, but nobody attempts to take them
away. "No one picks up anything lost on the way, for each has its owner" is
their motto. Kaquewa is their only festival.
The Dulong bride and bridegroom would drink "heart-to-heart wine" at the wedding
ceremony, which demonstrates their will to remain a lifelong devoted couple.
Marital Customs of the Dulong People:
A girl and a lad of the Dulong nationality, having fallen in love with each
other, proceed to exchange gifts as a token of engagement. The girl presents the
lad with a Dulong blanket meticulously woven by herself or a pair of puttees,
while the latter presents the former with a hoe or a back basket made by
At the wedding, the parents of both sides bid the bride and bridegroom to show
concern to each other, to practice thrift and economy and to keep amicable
relations. Then two bowls of rice liquor are brought in, which the couple hold
up to their lips. As an expression of their willingness to follow the
admonitions, i.e., to have regard to and take care of each other, never allowing
themselves be separated, they drain the liquor together. It is called "drinking
The wedding feast provides mainly fried flour, glutinous-rice cakes and rice
liquor as food and drink. The hosts distribute a portion of them, with an added
piece of meat, to every guest as a manifestation of respect.
On the day of the wedding, people of the whole village come to congratulate the
new couple. Men and women, young and old, perform the Dulong dance and sing
songs of blessings to celebrate the occasion.
The Kaquewa Festival is held during the eleventh and twelfth lunar months. On
the first day of the festival, every family hangs up colored tapestry as festive
decoration. In the evening, the whole family meets to drink and does
fortune-telling about the coming year. The second day is devoted to honoring the
mountain god. They make images of the mountain god and many wild animals with
the dough of buckwheat flour. When the ceremony of honoring the mountain god is
over, young archers shoot the dough-made animals. Other participants of the
ceremony dance around them, beating their big gongs and drums. Women festoon the
bull for sacrifice on a colored Dulong rug. They also hang strings of colored
beads on its horns. Then the sacrificial animal is fastened onto the sacrificial
pole. Everybody dances around it. All young men in the villages, spears in hand,
come to the sacrificial ground arm in arm. They drink wine "with one heart" (
from the same cup at the same time ) . They begin to dance and pierce the
animal. When the bull finally falls down, it is formally offered to heaven.
Fortunetelling is conducted with its protruding tongue. The meat is equally
shared among all. One of young men carries up the bull's head on his back and
dances the bull-head dance, everybody follows. When the dance is over, they
begin to cook the meat and enjoy it around bonfires. The celebration usually
goes on through the whole night.
THE DAI PEOPLE
The Dai nationality has a population of 1,014,000 people. Most of them inhabit
Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Dehong Prefecture as well as Gengma and Menglian
Counties. A small number of the Dai people are also scattered over a wide area
of more than 30 other counties in Yunnan.
The Dai are an age-old nationality and their history as recorded in the Dai
language dates back to over one thousand years ago. "Dai" means
The Dai mostly inhabit plain areas, with their village flourishing along rivers
and lakes. They live in bamboo houses on stilt foundations, which are enclosed
by a courtyard of bamboo hedges in exuberant fruit trees. It provides a secluded
surrounding for the Dais.
The Dai man usually wears a white jacket, with buttons on the right or down the
front, and a white cloth headwrapper. Tattoo is common among the men. The Dai
woman in Xishuangbanna usually wears a colourful bodice, a jacket with buttons
on the right and a sarong. Her hair is usually tied into a bun and she loves to
wear fresh and beautiful flowers on the head. In Dehong Prefecture, the Dai
girls wear light-coloured short upper garments with buttons on the right, and
black aprons. After they get married, they wear upper garments with buttons down
the front and sarongs. The Dai women in Yuanjiang County have their clothes
trimmed with beautiful embroidery and silver ornament.
Putting on these clothes, they show a healthy physical charm enhanced by
well-defined lines, harmony of colours and a buoyant gait like peacocks in their
dancing posture. Among the articles of ornament of the Dai women, a silver
waistband is a must, which might be regarded as a prominent feature marking the
Dai women's marital status. A married Dai woman, in accordance with their
custom, naturally attaches one or several keys. This shows that she is wedd ed
and is in no position to accept other young men's proposals. In case the waist
band has no keys attached to it, this indicates that she is still unmarried. If
she is willing, lads can court her boldly.
The Dai people believe in Theravada Buddhism. There are Buddhist temples and
pagodas in every village.
Marital Customs of the Dal People:
The young people of the Dai nationality have full freedom of social life before
their marriage. Courting among men and women is called in the Dai language "yuesao",
while the local Han people call it "courting a girl". Such "yuesao" may have
various ways on various occasions. For example, after supper when a girl goes to
the open square to spin cotton into threads, she puts a stool beside her,
waiting for a lad to come and take the seat. If the lad who has sat beside her
happens to be after her heart, then the spinning wheel gives a rhythmic sound.
Otherwise it gives a sound that is unrhythmic and discordant. Then the lad goes
away knowingly and looks for another girl. Some others may seek their beloved
through "throwing small bags" such as takes place on the Water Sprinkling
Festival. This is not only a sort of amusement among lads and girls, but also a
traditional way of seeking one's beloved and choosing one's match. On the day of
the festival, young people in their best come to the open square to play this
game. At first, the bag is thrown at random. But after a while, it is aimed at
the person who is after one's heart. The small bag's being accepted signifies
that the receiver takes a fancy to the thrower. After they reciprocate the bag
for several times, they quit the square by agreement and go to a quiet place to
profess their mutual adoration. The more interesting approach is to seek one's
match through selling and buying chicken. Upon the New Year of the Dai calendar
or other festivals, a girl kills a fatted chicken she has raised and after
braisi ng it brings it to the fair for sale, hoping that the buyer will be a lad
whom she adores. In case the buyer is a lad she dislikes, she simply says when
the price is asked: "Let's reckon after you've eaten it." When the chicken is
eaten by the lad, the girl asks him to pay a doubled price. If the buyer happens
to be a lad to whom the girl takes a fancy, the two bring the chicken to a quiet
forest, and while tasting the delicacy, profess their mutual affection.
If the courting proves a success, then through the medium of matchmaker a day is
appointed for the wedding. In accordance with the Dai people's marital customs,
the wedding is to take place at the girl's home. The chief wedding ceremony
consists of "tying up the thread" which is called in the Dai language "shuhuan",
meaning "tying up their souls", i.e., tying the souls of the bride and
bridegroom together or tying their hearts together. When this ceremony begins,
the parents of the bride tie a white and clean cotton thread on the wrists of
the bride and bridegroom, blessing them with the bliss of marriage, wishing them
mutual love and respect till their old age. Then a "zanha" (a folk singer)
begins to sing a hymn of praise. At night, the young people of the village turn
out and perform the peacock dance under the accompaniment of the elephant-leg
drums and gongs, extending greetings to the bride and bridegroom.
To get a divorce, it is only necessary to present each other a couple of wax
sticks, and this means that the procedure of divorce is gone through. It the
female party wants a divorce, all she needs to do is to present the other party
with a couple of sticks and he immediately packs up his things and returns to
his own village.
THE LISU PEOPLE
The Lisu nationality with a population of 557,000 people mainly reside in
Nujiang Prefecture; the rest are scattered over Lijiang, Diqing, Dali, Dehong,
Chuxiong and Baoshan.
The Lisu nationality with a history of long standing are the descendants of the
ancient Di-Qiang nationality. The Lisu women can be divided into White Lisu,
Black Lisu and Flower Lisu by the colours of their costumes. The White Lisu and
the Black Lisu women's clothing includes right-buttoned garments and gunny
skirts; the married women wear big brass earrings, chains of coral, beads
ornament on the head, and some others wear strings of agate or sea shell and
silver coin necklaces. An expensive chest ornament is said to be worth one or
two oxen. The Flower Lisu women look very graceful by putting on trimmed
costumes and skirts of dazzling colour with brass and silver earrings.
As or the Lisu men, they wear gunny coats and short pants. Some wear black
headdresses, others have long hair and twine it at the back of their heads. A
grown-up man usually carries a long-bladed chopper on the left side and a quiver
on the right.
The Lisu people are fond of a kind of sour, homemade wine called "cujiu"
(vinegar liquor). A visitor will always be entertained with the "cujiu".
Sword Pole Festival is observed on the eighth of the second lunar month in
commemoration of an ancient Han hero who teach Lisu people to make swords. To
express their gratitude to the hero, they perform "ascending the pole of swords"
and "diving into the sea of flame". In celebrating this festival, a number of
brave Lisu men first perform "diving into the sea of flames" by stepping on a
pile of burning charcoal barefoot. Then they climb up a ladder with 36 rungs
made of sharpened swords of which e blades turn upward. The climbing brave men
are called "nipas". The "nipa" performs some extremely difficult acrobatic feats
at the top and scatters "jiama" (paper-cut talismans) all over to expel evils.
THE HANI PEOPLE
The 1,248,000 Hani people live in compact communities over the wide stretches of
land between the Ailao and Wuliang Mountains - the central area between the
Yuanjiang and Lancangjiang Rivers.
The Hani nationality originated from the ancient Qiang nationality as did the ~
The Hani people live in houses of timber structure. These houses are warm in
winter and cool in summer, and their roofs are flat and can be used for drying
The Hani people have many branches whose costumes and ornaments vary from place
to place. The Hani girls like to wear silver chains, silver coins or silver
bubbles. Hani women are all deft at embroidery and cross-stitch work, while the
Hani men good at woodcarving.
"Drinking liquor made from newly harvested river" is a grand traditional
occasion for the Hani people to express their wishes for a good harvest and good
health for their people. The Tenth Month Festival and the Fresh Rice Festival
are also grand occasions of joyfulness for the Hani, when old and young, men and
women, all come out singing and dancing, swinging and wrestling.
The Hani people have a time-honoured tradition of respecting the old and loving
the young. They greet passersby regardless of whether they know each other or
Greet the lad with a Hail of Chinese Olive Fruit:
The marital customs of the Changduo people, a branch of the Hani nationality at
Mojiang County, prescribe peculiar wedding ceremonies. When the bridegroom goes
to meet the bride, people in the bride's family greet the lad with a hail of
Chinese olive fruit, which adds hearty warmth to the joyous atmosphere.
When the wedding day approaches, people of the bride's family set up a decorated
shed at the village. Some girls are invited to keep company with the bride. They
put the olive fruit they have gathered in a basket and place it in the shed.
When the procession that has come to take the bride enters the decorated shed,
the girls accompanying the bride rush out of the shed and greet the bridegroom
playfully with a hail of olive fruit. The lads who serve as "boyguards" to the
bridegroom protect him immediately with umbrellas and bamboo hats they have
prepared beforehand. Several nimble lads thrust into the shed in defiance of the
"fruit hail", pushing the bridegroom along with them. All this ends in a merry
The custom of the Changduo people's greeting the bridegroom with a bail of olive
fruit has the implication of letting him taste some bitterness first, and sweet
days will come later.
Amatu festival of Hani Nationalities:
Amatu festival is observed to honor mountains, ancestry, and forests in the
Jinping Yao and Dai Autonomous County on the dragon's day in the second lunar
On the first day, a cock is sacrificed to the vagrant ghosts and a bamboo fence
erected to keep them from entering the village. In the next morning, a village
priest offers the sacrifice of a white cock to the water source and the mountain
and forests that shade it. At noon, they offer sacrifices to the pagoda at the
village center. Then a feast is prepared. The first table is situated as the "
dragon's head " beside the pago da and the rest tables are arranges orderly along
the main street. All the male villagers are presented at the dinner.
Next, they offer sacrifices to "dragon forest", a sacred place where women are
not admitted. Three pebbles, painted red with the first menstruation of a virgin
in the village, mingled with the blood of a pig and a dog, are placed in front
of the dragon tree. The stone with the virgin's menstruation, offered to the
dragon and the mountain, is laid on the right; the stone with the pig's blood,
offered to the sacred forest, is laid in the center; the stone with the dog's
blood, offered to ghost, is laid on the left. A pair of youngsters, dressed up
as a virgin boy and a maiden, stand on both sides of the dragon tress
symbolizing virginity. Three village elders chant sutras, praying for prosperity
and immunity from disasters.
The celebration lasts for seven days, starting three days prior to the dragon's
day. All other activities break off. Any intruder would be kept in the village
until the celebration is over.
THE PUMI PEOPLE
The Pumi nationality has a population of 29,000 people and 90% of them inhabit
the mountainous area at an average elevation of 2,500 metres in the province's
northwestern counties, namely, Lanping, Ninglang, Lijiang, Weixi and Youngsheng.
The Pumis are the descendants of the Di-Qiang nationality, an ancient nomadic
tribe. They migrated from Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan to Yunnan during 400 B.C.
The women in Ninglang and Yongsheng like to wear broad scarves, chaplets of
plaited hair mingled with hair of yak tail and silk thread, loose garments and
pleated skirts. They love to tie their waists with sashes of red, green, blue
and yellow colours and to put on goatskins of pure white fur over their
shoulders. Mens wear scarcely differs from place to place. It usually includes
sleeveless gunny garments, loose trousers and goatskin vests. The man likes to
bring a long knife with him when going out.
The Pumi people live in log houses. The upper floor with a fire pit installed at
the centre is for the people, while the ground floor serves as a cattle-shed.
The regions where the Pumis live are advanced in livestock breeding. Such
products as woolen cloth, gunny, bamboo articles and lacquer bowls made by the
Pumis are well-known far and near.
The Pumi people are all good singers and dancers. They hold antiphonal singings
and the "guozhuang" dance on the occasions of wedding, funeral and traditional
The Pumi people are kind and hospitable. A good saying goes among the Pumis like
this: "The first bowl of barley wine from a new jug should be offered to the
guests coming from afar; and the first cup of tea which has just been boiling in
the pot to the brothers from an alien land."
THE NU PEOPLE
The Nu nationality have a population of 26,000 people. They have been living for
generations along the Nujiang River and the Lancangjiang River. They are
distributed over the counties of Fugong, Gongshan and Tue Township under Lan
ping. Some of them live in We ixi County.
Wooden and bamboo houses are the two types of houses in which they live. Both
the Nu men and women wear gunny clothes. The man is fond of carrying a
long-bladed chopper, a bow and an animal skin quiver. The married woman in
Fugong likes to wear trimmed garments, string ornaments of coral, agate, shell,
bead and brass earrings. The woman in Gongshan only puts ornaments on the bosom.
Whenever a stranger calls on a family, the hospitable Nu people would treat him
with "xiela", which means in the Nu language "meat and wine cooked together". It
is a delicious food the Nu people always enjoy.
Marital Customs of the Nu people in Gongshan:
The Nu people living in Gongshan county have a practice of approving a marriage
and deciding on the time of wedding according to the material conditions of both
parties to the marriage. If the conditions are ripe, they cohabit after the
wedding takes place. If the two parties, especially the male one, are in
straitened circumstances, they merely go through the procedure of engagement,
then begin to work and cohabit together, bearing children. Their wedding will
not take place until conditions are ripe for one that is honourable and worthy.
Thus some people make up for their wedding only when they have had several
children. This custom is retained up to now. The local people call it "dimuwa".
THE LAHU PEOPLE
The Lahu nationality has a population of 408,000 people. "Lahu" means "to roast
tiger meat". So this nationality was once called the "tiger-hunting people".
Many of the Lahu people are living in Lancang and Menglian Autonomous Counties.
Some are living in Gengma, Shuangjiang, Cangyuan, Menghai and Ximeng Counties.
Most mountainous regions which the Lahu people inhabit belong to the subtropical
zone, favorable for cultivating grains, tea, tobacco, purple rice and other cash
The Lahu women usually wear black upper garments buttoning down the front, with
colorful laces and cloth patches of geometrical designs, silver bubbles trimmed
on around the collars and down the front. They also wear black headcloths of
more than three metres long, and trimmed with colorful long tassels hanging at
both sides of the head. They wear black trousers, big earrings, bracelets, and
silver badges on the chest. The men wear jackets with buttons down the front to
match trousers. They also put on black cloth caps, on the top of which are
usually stripes of red and blue cloth.
There are many traditional festivals celebrated by the Lahu, for instance, the
Spring Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Torchlight Festival, Fresh Rice
Festival, of which the Spring Festival is the biggest occasion.
The Lahu people usually eat roast meat during festivals. The roast meat is
tender and delicious.
Marital Customs of Lahu People:
The Lahu people's marital custom are very interesting. The lads and girls seek
their matches chiefly on festive occasions. The conditions on which they base
their choice is as follows: The man must be able to do ploughing, raking,
wood-chopping, hoeing hemp plant, spinning hemp yarn and hunting and he must be
honest and diligent. The woman must be able to do the hemp-thread-connecting,
cloth-weaving and sewing and must be diligent and kindhearted. If a lad adores a
girl, he must present her with rattan-plaited leg-rings and necklaces. If the
girl finds the lad after her heart, she presents him with a sash woven with
rainbow-coloured threads as a token of engagement. If both parties feel
satisfied after they have got along for some time, the lad tells his parents to
engage a matchmaker. According to established customs, the matchmaking is to be
repeated three times: for the first time a pack of tea, a pa&k of tobacco and a
bottle of wine are to be offered as gifts. For the second time two earthen pots
for brewing tea, two bunches of tobacco and twenty cups of wine are to be
presented. Presented at the third time are a roll of homespun cloth, two bags
(each bag weighing about 6 kg.) of rice and a length of green cloth. Then a day
can be appointed for the wedding.
For the Lahu people's wedding no banquets are needed. On the wedding day, a
prestigious old man first of all gives the new couple his blessing. Then the
handsomely dressed up lads and girls, together with the couple, sing and dance
around a bonfire. The Lahu people look upon the bonfire as symbolizing the
couples' having impassioned hearts and regard dancing around the bonfire as
blessing the couple with a lifelong love. On this day things with which the
guests are entertained are none other than dried tobacco, tea made of baked tea
leaves, pine cone seeds and chestnuts, etc. The Lahu people never make a show of
THE NAXI PEOPLE
The Naxi nationality has a population of 265,000 people. It is a nationality
with a long history (reaching back about 10,000 years) and rich cultural
heritage. Most of them reside in the Lijiang Naxi autonomous County. They are
also found in the counties of Ninglang, Deqin, Weixi and Zhongdian. Mosuo
people, a subgroup of Naxi, have been living around the Lugu Lake generation
after generation and still keep the customs f matriarchy.
The Naxi people are the descendants of the Di-Qing people, an ancient nomadic
tribe in China. The Naxi people created the brilliant Dongba culture in the long
course of historical development. Thousands of volumes of the "Dongba
Scriptures" written in a pictographic language are a world-renowned treasure of
The Naxi man's clothing is not much different from that of the Han. A woman
wears a loose upper garment with a vest, a pair of trousers, a pleated apron and
a goatskin shawl, on which there are seven delicately woven round designs
symbolizing the moon and stars. (To work in the moonlight means exceptional
The Naxi people are open-minded, and fond of singing and dancing. They would
sing and dance around bonfires on the red-letter days.
Grand nationality sports competition and trade fair are held on traditional
festivals such as Sanduo Festival, Luomahui (mule and horse fair), etc.
Sanduo Festival of Naxi Nationality
On the 8th of February every lunar year, Naxi people will enjoy their " Honoring
Sanduo Festival " at the Beiyue Temple Fair. "Sanduo" is a Naxi safeguard god.
Beiyue means "Northern Ranges" of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at the foot of which
Sanduo Temple was built. It is recorded in the Naxi history that in the ancient
times, a hunter discovered a strange snow stone on the Jade Dragon Mountain. He
carried the stone home. On his way home, he put down the stone for a rest
because the stone was extremely heavy. When he decided to continue his trip, he
could no longer lift the stone. Local Naxi people thought it was the embodiment
of a god. Later, they build up a temple to honor the god. Hence, people believed
that they always saw a heavenly being making its presence in a white coat and
white helmet, with a white spear on a white horse. It protected the local people
and their land. Naxi people consider that Sand uo is the powerful god of its
nation and Sanduo was born in the year of goat. Therefore, on every goat day (
8th of February and August ), a goat is sacrificed to honor this holy god.
It is the camellia in blossom season when the temple fair is held. The fair is
crowded with people. Fireworks can be heard now and then. People are traveling
with their families for picnics. This is the most significant occasion in
THE BAI PEOPLE
The Bai nationality has a population of 1,339,000 people. It is one of Yunnan's
minority nationalities that enjoy a long history and advanced culture. Over 80%
of the Bais inhabit the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, while the rest are
scattered about in Kunming, Yuanjiang, Lijiang, Lanping, etc.
Dali Prefecture is one of the birth places of Yunnan's ancient culture. During
200 B.C. the Han Dynasty set up an administrative unit called Jun in Dali.
During the Song and Tang Dynasties, Nanzhao Kingdom and Dali Kingdom came into
being successively. Dali was at that time the centre of politics, economy and
culture in Yunnan. The Three Pagodas of Dali, the Dehua Tablet, the Shibaoshan
Grottoes of Jiangchuan County, the architectural complex of the Temples on
Jizushan Mountain in Binchuan County are all well-known tourist attractions at
home and abroad. They are the crystallization of the artistical talent and
wisdom of the nationalities living around Erhai Lake. Listed as one of China's
cities of historical and cultural significance, Dali has become a famous tourist
The Bai (meaning white) worship the colour of wh ite. White clothing is regarded
as noble. Men mostly wear edge-to-edge white vests, black high-neck vests, while
women usually wear right-buttoned blouses, black-blue vests. They plait the hair
and coil it into a bun on the back of the head; as for the maidens, they wear a
single braid on the back and a scarf fastened with red ribbons. They like to put
on beautifully designed aprons.
The Bai nationality is noted for the distinctive art of architecture, which is
represented by "san fang yi zhao bi" (a courtyard with rooms on three side and a
decorative screen wall) and "sihe wu tianjing" (a major courtyard with four
small ones at the four corners of the major one.) The Bai houses remind one of a
spanish villa, harmonious and elegant in design, embodies the artistic talent of
the Bai people.
The Third Month Fair, Raosanling, Yutanhui and the Torchlight Festival are the
unique and colourful festivals celebrated in the areas inhabited by the Bai
nationality. The fifteenth day of the third lunar month brings the "Third Month
Street Fair" in Dali, which lasts about a week. Originally, this festival was
called Avalokitesvara's Festival. It was Avalokitesvara who opened up the Dali
area, subdues Monster Luocha and brought prosperity to the people. Every year
from the fifteenth to the twentieth of the third lunar month, people gather at
the Three Pagodas Temple to pay homage and express thanks to Avalokitesvara.
Along with the development of commodity economy, trade becomes brisk at the
gathering, Finally it has become a yearly fair. In addition to the exchange of
commodities, there are horse racing, performance of operas, folk singing and
Marital Customs of the Bal People on the Shores of the Sword Lake:
The Bai people living on the shores of the Sword Lake in Jinchuan County have
peculiar and interesting marital customs. According to traditional conventions,
when the time for the wedding c mes, the bridegroom and his lads must ride on
stalwart horses to meet the bride, who in turn must take a sedan chair to leave
her home. On the bride's "home-coming", the bridegroom must invite friends and
relatives from some ten families to the bride's. At the banquet of reception
given by the latter an additional pair of chopsticks must be put on the table.
The bridegroom and his friends may hide the pair of chopsticks when unheeded by
others and take them home. The implication is that the bridegroom's family has
an added member, so it stands to reason to take a pair of chopsticks back from
the bridge's home! When the bridegroom hides the chopsticks, in thc dining room
or the antechamber there are always witty remarks and joky answers which add to
the festive atmosphere of the banquet.
THE YI PEOPLE
With a population of 4,054,000 people, the Yi nationality is the largest minority
nationality in Yunnan Province. They are distributed in nearly every county
and municipality in the province. The autonomous prefectures of Chuxiong and
Honghe, and the Wumengshan and Xiaoliangshan areas in the northwestern part
of the province are densely inhabited by the Yis.
The Yi nationality has a history of long standing. They are the descendants
of the Kunming people who had a relation by origin with the Di-Qiang nationality
in the northwest.
The Yi people has more than 100 sub-groups different designatoins. They have
their own spoken and written language. The Yi people in southern Yunnan live
in adobe houses of two storeys. The kitchen and cattle-shed are usually on the
first floor, and the living rooms on the second. The flat roof serves as a veranda
and a sunning ground.
The Yis have nearly one hundred varieties of colourful clothing. The girls living
in Honghe like to wear cockscombshaped hats. The silver bubbles, big and small,
sewn on the hat like the, moon and stars, symbolize brightness and happiness.
In Dongchuan, young men try to show their smartness and diligence by wearing
specially made "huocao" (a fuel herb) vests on festivals or on the
occasion of visiting relatives and friends.
A "huocao" vest is made of "huocao" (Anaphalis), slightly
yellowish, sheen in color, soft and warm in quality. It is very difficult to
collect the "huocao" from the mountains and valleys and it is even
more difficult to make a vest of it because it takes more than twenty working
procedures. Therefore it is rather a piece of handwork embodying the diligence
of the Yi youth.
The Torchlight Festival, and Flower-sticking Festival are their major festivals.
On the 24th of the sixth lunar month, when the handle of the Big Dipper turns
upward, the Torch Festival, the Yi people's New Year according to the Yi calendar
begins. Torches are kindled at night to expel evil and pray for prosperity.
Many activities are held, including wresting, bull fighting and horse racing.
The festival originated from the legend about the battle between an ancient
Yi hero and a fiend. The hero wrestled and beat him. He taught his people eliminate
evils and pests with torches. From now on, Yi people begin to prosper. The festival
is held to commemorate him.
The Yi people living in Dayao County celebrate the Flower-sticking Festival
in florescence of rhododendrons. They hold that a family will have a much better
life when this family's door is decorated with red flowers; cattle breeding
will thrive when the horns of cattle are adorned with flowers. They also believe
that flowers will bring longevity to old people and beauty to girls.
Marital Customs of the Yi People in Chuxiong:
The Yi People in Chuxiong Prefecture still retain some quaint marital customs.
After a lad and a girl have known each other and fallen in love, a matchmaker
is engaged to bring wine to the girl's family as a gift. If the latter accepts
the wine, then the lad proceeds to prepare silver chains, wrist watches and
clothes as gifts for the occasion of collecting the bride. On the day before
this, the girl begins to "cry over her being married" in order to
show her attachment to her parents.
The next day is supposed to be an auspicious one. The lad brings horses laden
with gifts to the girl's house to take her away. Dozens and even a hundred girls
and married women gather at the bride's home, "deferentially waiting for"
the coming of the bridegroom with plenty of cold water. As soon as the latter
enters the house, he is taken unawares by basins of cold water and becomes drenched
as a "drowned cock". Those who come with the lad for the occasion
have their faces smeared black with soot by force on the part of the girl's
family. Then another lad chosen beforehand by the male party, who corresponds
in appearance and age tot he bridegroom, is asked to "carry away the bridge
on his back". As the first step, she is carried down from the upper storey
of the house and handed over to the bridegroom. Then she is brought by the best
man on his back and under the escort of the male party's convoy they head for
the latter's home. In case the best man is tired on the way, he may let down
the bridge for a rest. However, she is not allowed to have her feet touch the
ground and must be carried to the bridegroom's home before sunset. Upon her
arrival, the wedding soon takes place. When the couple enter the room for the
newlywed, each must strive to be the first to sit on the bedside. The one who
first takes hold of the place closest to the pillows rules the roost.
Marriage of the Shanshu People:
The Shanshu people are a branch of the Yi nationality. They live in the dense
forest at Xinping County. Their love-making is unsophisticated and jolly. A
marriage is a success by half, provided a lad and a girl go to the "dancing
ground", care for each other, profess their mutual affection and get along
Afterwards, the lad, fixing on an auspicious day, comes to the dancing ground,
and in the company of his companions dances in tune with the sound of lutes
till nightfall. In the same manner does the girl. Then all of a sudden the lad
holds the girl in his arms and runs away, vanishing with her in the dense forest.
Their marriage is thus settled. Soon after the bride's arrival, the bridegroom
has to kill a cock. Only in this way can she he counted a full member of the
family of the husband, and no longer slinks back to her parents' house.
One month after they have married, the wife takes her husband to see her parents.
The husband makes apologies to his parents-in-law. One year later, the couple,
carrying their baby, again pay them a visit. The
husband also brings some grain to his father-in-law by way of gratitude.