The Bai is one of the 56 ethnic tirbes of China. Bai People regards white color with high esteem and they call themselves Baizi, Baini or Baihuo, meaning white people. In 1956, they were named the Bai Nationality by Chinese Authorities.
The Bai ethnic group has a population of around 2 million, 80 percent of which live in the Bai Autonomous County west of Yunnan Province. Only a small part of their community are scattered in Sichuan, Guizhou, and Hunan Provinces.
The Bai speak a language related to the Yi branch of the Tibetan-Myanmese group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. The language contains a large number of Chinese words due to the long contact with the majority Chinese ethnic group, Han Chinese.
The area round Lake Erhai in the autonomous prefecture is blessed with a mild climate and fertile land yielding two crops a year. Here, the main crops are rice, winter wheat, beans, millet, cotton, rape, sugar-cane and tobacco. The forests have valuable stocks of timber, herbs of medicinal value and rare animals. Mt. Diancang by Lake Erhai contains a rich deposit of the famous Yunnan marble, which is basically pure white with veins of red, light blue, green and milky yellow. It is treasured as building material as well as for carving.
The color white is favored by both men and women of the Bai ethnic group when it comes to clothing. The Bai ethnic dresses are mostly light in color, forming stark contrast with dark colors that are used as a complement. The dresses, with strongly contrasted yet perfectly matched colors, are adorned with elaborate cross-stitch embroidery. Most dresses are edged with lace. They may be intricately decorated, yet looking quite orderly.
The houses of the Bai people fall into three categories, according to the material, decorations, and furnishings. The three categories are: bamboo sawali house and thatched cottage, wooden house, and house with tiled roof. This division reflects the different economic levels and the different geographical environments.
Arts and Crafts
The Bai people are masters of artistic creativity including architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and other craft techniques such as lacquer work. Contemporarily, their dance and music spread among the Han people after becoming accepted as part of the court entertainment.
Although the Bai people believe in Buddhism, they also worship their village god, Benzhu, Nature of God, the Prince of the Nanzhao regime, or even a hero of folklore.
The main festivals of the Bai include the March Fair, worship gathering in three temples, the Torch Festival, the Folk Song Singing Festival at Shibaoshan Mountain, and Protecting Immortal’s Day. Among them the two most important festivals are March Fair and Torch Festival.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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