Written By Maria Giglio
Once upon a time in Southwest China, three brothers were born. As they grew up, it was clear that the boys were so different, that they also spoke different languages: Bai, Tibetan and Naxi. Each brother then decided to settle in a different area between Tibet and Yunnan. This fascinating ancient legend about the birth of Southwestern Chinese culture is only a taster of the immense diversity characterising the region.
Did you know?
Probably you already know that China is known for having a high population density. Not everyone knows, however, that unlike many other huge Countries, such as the United States or Canada, Chinese territory is also very rich in cultural diversity. The whole land counts as many as 56 recognised minorities in China. Interestingly, almost half of them are concentrated within the Yunnan Province in Southwest China. Curious to know who they are? There are at least 25 communities inhabiting the Yunnan territory: Achang, Bai, Bulang, Buyi, Dai, De’ang, Dulong, Hani, Hui, Jingpo, Jinuo, Lahu, Lisu, Miao, Mongolian, Naxi, Nu, Pumi, Sani, Shui, Tibetan, Wa, Yao, Yi and Zhuang.
The following map shows the territory of Yunnan divided by ethnic groups.
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Despite the alarming level of poverty spread across the territory, Yunnan people are renowned by locals and international tourists for their extreme hospitality, courtesy, natural cheerful spirit and vitality. Each different group has its own rich cultural heritage and proudly showcases it through colourful traditional attires, arts and crafts, which have remained the same generation by generation.
We at Interact China celebrate diversity and, naturally, oriental beauty. We believe that each community is unique, and we partner with many of them with the aim to share their secret beauties worldwide! At the core there is the wish that our initiatives contribute to their social and economic empowerment.
Discover some of our best friends from Yunnan Province!
Dai or (Thai) people live in the Southern area of the Yunnan. As the name suggests, they are strictly related to neighbour people of Thailand and Laos.
Dai communities count as many as 1,000,000 people. This means that there is a lot of diversity, including languages and costumes, within the same group, however the script is universal for all sub-groups, and also very different from the national Chinese.
Dai culture is full of vitality and fun: one of the most important celebration is the “Water Splashing Festival” on the occasion of Dai New Year. What is the main activity of the ongoing celebrations? Well, the name tells it itself…
Traditional attire for women include tight-sleeved short dresses to exalt feminine figure. Especially in Xishuangbanna region, there is a preponderance of bright colours, such as light green, pink and light blue. Here are some of our products from Dai people:
Hani people occupy a large portion of Southeast Yunnan. They have a long lasting tradition of artistic skills, especially textile art. In fact, Hani people believe that every person is unique, and like to express it through their attire, which is traditionally very characteristic.
Hani people give out their creativity through stitching and weaving imaginative patterns, zig zags, symbols, geometric shapes, that seem to suggest their language is hidden through their clothes. A taster of our collection of Hani bags:
Unlike many groups, Hani people love black and dark blue: they extract pigments from local Indigo plant. This doesn’t mean that they have mournful spirit: usually dark backgrounds come with lots of colourful decorations.
The Lahu inhabit the Southern areas of the province. Still today, Lahu enjoy a very natural lifestyle. Animistic religion is still very diffused across the different sub-groups of this population.
A fun fact about Lahu people is their rich and beautiful mythology. Legend says that the founding father of their culture was a man who was fed and raised by charitable dogs when he was born.
Doesn’t it sound familiar? Because of this sort of Romulus-and-Remus kind of story, Lahu people cherish dogs as gods, showing their eternal gratefulness to their ancestral protectors. As a result, dogs are celebrated and tribute through arts and crafts. The abstract representation of the dog is the triangle. Watch below some of our authentic Lahu bags. Aren’t they a piece of art?
Lisu people live in the North-western border of Yunnan close to Burma.
These lively people also live in very natural environments and practice animistic religion. As a result, their art features a distinctively primitive character. A joy to the eyes of colour-lovers. Lisu love to show off their creativity wearing vibrant colours and bold accessories in their outfits.
A truly social community, Lisu use dresses and accessories for courting purposes. Fun fact: Lisu men craft and create extravagant bags, featuring tassels and colourful pompons to attract the ladies. The more, the merrier! For example, tassels in our Lisu bag below makes a long way to the top…
Miao Hmong people constitute the largest minority group in China, amounting to as many as 9,426,007 people occupying the Yunnan province. An originally nomadic people, large communities of Miao also inhabit neighbour regions of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
With over 5,000 years of history as a nomadic people, Miao features an incredible infra-group diversity. Each local group owns its own identity, though common features can be identified in overall Miao artistic skills and their original and rich costume. Miao people are in fact worldly renowned for their textiles and rich, heavy jewelry, that they proudly wear as expression of identity and history.
The making of their elaborate silver jewelry, like as iconic as impressive horn headdresses, not only reveals a high level of creativity but also an exceptional mastery of silversmithing art. I dare you find anything with a similar level of proficiency elsewhere in the world! We are proud to offer you a huge variety of products from these incredible artists. Since I didn’t know where to start, I only picked some! 🙂
Interestingly, silverware was originally used by Miao people as a way to easily carry their assets around when traveling, but also to showcase their wealth status. Originally jewellery was in fact crafted from melted coins, earned with hours of sacrifice. Today the Chinese government support the preservation of Miao traditional silversmithing, accredited as National Cultural Heritage in 2006, with special supplies of silver.
As the name suggest, Chinese Tibetan occupy the northern west of Yunnan, the closest to Tibet. Set in the cold and windy mountains of Tibetan plateau, these community live in harsh and isolated conditions, but they are nonetheless cheerful.
Appreciably influenced by Buddhist tradition, Tibetan people live in direct contact and homage nature with a respectful use of its gifts and resources.
Everything reflects this deep connection with the spiritual dimension of life. You may be impressed by the meaning attached to their beautiful jewels which beyond an undeniable aesthetic are also enriched with symbolism, being regarded as amulets. For example, the Dzi, a local patterned black and white gemstone, is considered to be capable of influencing the influx of energy of its wearer. Our Tibetan jewels keep it classic with turquoise and coral:
Finally, the Yi people inhabit the remote mountains of northern Yunnan, even though their largest representation lives in Sichuan Province.
A peaceful people sill living in contact with nature, Yi are known for their incredible embroidery skills, which are full part of their cultural heritage and daily attire.
Yi people like to express their wishes for a better and wealthier life through their clothes. That is why their attire is so colourful, despite the hard living conditions. Our Yi bags are a statement of joy. Don’t you love them?
We help these beautiful communities to thrive through their hard times. We believe that each owns an identity and cultural richness that deserves to be disclosed to the rest of the world. Every person is unique, every culture deserves a place in the world and in our hearts!
About Interact China
“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”
Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.
So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.
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If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at email@example.com, we would love to hear from you!