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                                                                   YUNNAN    MAJOR    MINORITY

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 background.

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 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 and respect.

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 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 batik.

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 festivals.


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 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.


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 Shizong.

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 design.

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 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.


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 tradition.

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.


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.


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 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 vast grassland.

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 various nationalities.

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 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 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 and tea.

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.


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 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 Lancang Counties.

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 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 himself.

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 one-heart-Liquor".

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.

Kaquewa Festival

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 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 peace-and-freedom-loving people.

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.


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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 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 ~ and Lahu.

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 grains.

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 not.

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 assembly.

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 month.

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 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. br> 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 festivals.

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 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 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 crops.

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 their wedding.


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 written material.

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 industry.)

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 Lijiang.


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 attraction.

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 dancing.

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.


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 swimmingly.

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.


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