The Dai people – an Authentic Journey through their Lands and Culture

Written by Harry Wilson

In the second blogpost in our new series, I am going to be introducing you to yet another fascinating ethnic minority group.  This month’s focus will be on the Dai people located mainly in Southern Yunnan, China.  They are one of several ethnic groups located within the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture.  In total there are around 1.2 million Dai people in China, but there are many more in Burma, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.  They are closely related to both the Lao and Thai people and there are several terms in the various Tai languages to describe more specifically the 7 Dai groups.  In this blogpost, I hope to take you on a journey through some of the main Dai areas and to introduce you to their most important customs and traditions.

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The Wanda Vista in Xishuangbanna

Let’s first take a look at traditional Dai villages and the modernisation process which they are currently undergoing.  Traditional Dai houses are square or rectangular and have two stories.  On the upper floor the families spend their quality time together, and on the lower floor the Dai people keep livestock and food.   On the upper floor there is normally a dining room, a study and a specific room for receiving and welcoming guests.  This room is of vital importance to the Dai culture.  The main reason for the raised houses in to protect the top floor from flooding.  The areas in which the Dai people live have an incredibly wet climate and are therefore constantly at risk.

Take a look at the following short documentary below to get a tour of a Dai village.  You will see how the villages are currently being modernised and get a first hand look at the Dai people and where/how they live.  Make sure you turn on subtitles to fully enjoy the interview/tour:

Now that we have a deeper understanding about the living conditions of the Dai people, let’s look at some of their most interesting customs and traditions.  The annual Water Splashing Festival takes place during the New Year of the Dai calendar and is also referred to in the Dai language as “Shanghan” or “Jingbimai”.  The festival usually lasts three days.  In the first two days there are dragon-boat races to say farewell to the previous year.  The last day is reserved for “lucky” activities which welcome in the New Year.  The festival is quite religious and includes several visits to a Buddhist temple.

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The Annual Water Splashing Festival in Yunnan, China

The video below by Caleb resources provides you with more information about the annual festival in Xixhuangbanna.  It also covers topics such as other traditions, the role of men and women in Dai society, and touches on their current poverty problem:

 

Dai festivals are absolutely fascinating and throughout their calendar year there are several others including the Door-closing and Door-opening festivals, the Huajie Festival (Flower Street Festival), the Flower Ball Festival and the Dragon Homage Festival.  You can find out more by searching the web!  Several festivals involve a lot of music and dancing.  The most famous dance to the Dai people is the incredibly beautiful peacock dance.  Check it out by watching the video below:

The instrument often played during the peacock dance is the hulusi.  The hulusi is extremely important to Dai culture and its sound is hauntingly beautiful.  Below is an interview with a hulusi performer which includes a sample song performed live:

If you are interested in studying the hulusi, you can find an excellent selection available on our site at – http://www.interactchina.com/hulusi-flute.

The Dai are a very hospitable people and will always take in guests, except during a pregnancy within the household or shortly following a family death.  During these times it is important to stay well clear of the Dai house, which will be marked by a bucket hanging near the door of the house.  The Dai diet consists largely of meats, fish and a variety of rice’s depending on the region and particular group.  Other seafood is also extremely popular.  Bamboo shoots are very common.

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A variety of Dai food from a traditional Dai ethnic restaurant in Kunming

We hope that you have enjoyed this unique insight into the areas and customs of the Dai people and will come back soon for an introduction to another fascinating ethnic group!

 

 

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.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team! 
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you! 

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An Introduction to the Ethnic Minority Groups of China – Part 1 – the Miao and Uyghur People

Written by Harry Wilson

In this new series, it is our goal to introduce you to the areas in which the ethnic groups of China live. Each blog post will introduce you to the region and the customs of a few groups, giving advice on places to visit as well as the best times of the year if you wish to have the best cultural experience.   China has 55 official minority groups and today’s post will take you on a journey through the regions of two of them, namely those of the Miao and Uyghur people.

The Miao ethnic people are mainly found in Southwest China and are most well-known for their embroidered products made by the Miao ladies.  The Miao ladies (often referred to as Hmong ladies) learn both Batik and embroidery from the age of six or seven and spend years mastering this craft.  They use embroidery to tell stories and record their cultural heritage, which in 2006 was named Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

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Miao Lady in a hand-embroidered dress

The Miao people live in over 700 cities throughout the South of China and number over seven million, with the around one-third of China’s Miao people living in the Wuling and Miaoling mountain range in the Guangxi Autonomous Region and in the Guizhou Province.  Mount Fanjing is the highest peak in this mountain range and is found in the Guizhou province, where many Miao tribes are located.  Most of these areas have a rather mild climate with large amounts of rainfall.   The Miao people are extremely self-sufficient and live in houses which are one or two stories.  The rear of the house is built on the mountain slope and the front typically rests on stilts.  Grain is stored in the ceiling and the bottom of the house is typically used to keep livestock and poultry.

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A village heavily populated by Miao people in the Guizhou Province

There are dozens of Miao festivals throughout the year.  One of the most important festivals is the offering of sacrifice to ancestors which are performed at fixed dates throughout the year.   The Miao people farm and hunt extremely diligently during the appropriate seasons and sacrifices following these seasons are common in order to help the people socialize and celebrate.  During holidays such as the Spring Festival (lunar New Year) the Miao people participate in songs, dances, horse races, reed-pipe wind music, and dating.  All of these events are rich in cultural heritage.  Take a look at the video below to get an insight into the Miao people, their region, customs and festivals:

The Miao people are extremely hospitable and will always keep their house open to guests, who are greeted with both wine and songs.   If you visit the region, make sure you prepare for the weather, but mainly for an amazingly rich variety of high quality embroidered clothing, incredibly spicy food (mainly rice-based dishes) and an outstanding cultural experience!

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A variety of rice in different colors prepared by the Miao people (ranging in spiciness)

The second ethnic group which we will discuss in this post is the Uyghur people.  They are a Turkic ethnic group found across East and Central Asia.  The majority of Uyghurs live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China.  This region borders several countries such as Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan amongst others.   The borders of this region are largely occupied by several mountain ranges including the rugged Karakoram, Kunlun and Tian Shan ranges.

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The Eastern portion of the Tianshan mountain range in Xinjiang was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 with the rest of the range following suit in 2016.    

Modern-day Uyghurs are primarily Muslim and constitute the second largest Muslim group in China after the Hui people.

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An Uyghur mosque in Khotan By Colegota – Own work 

The most interesting cultural aspects of the Uyghur people are found in the music, dance and arts.  Uyghur folk music is produced using several handmade instruments including the Dutar, Khushtar and Rawap and examples of several traditional Uyghur instruments can be seen and heard by clicking the following link:

This traditional music is often accompanied by the Sanam dance which is a popular folk dance.  It is commonly seen at weddings, festivities and parties.  It is a group dance which is most often seen during Newruz (New Year) and the dances are often accompanied by singers or people playing the traditional Uyghur hand-drum known as the dap.

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A variety of Uyghur instruments found in a local store

Uyghur food is a combination of Central Asian and Chinese cuisine.  One of the most famous Uyghur dishes is polu (known also as pilaf) and is typically served with carrots, mutton and rice.

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A typical Uyghur dish of polu by Rjanag – Own work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When visiting an Uyghur area, be prepared for similar levels of hospitality,  lots of meat-based dishes, hauntingly beautiful music and traditional clothing such as the Chapan and Doppa.

We hope that you have enjoyed this unique insight into the areas and customs of the Miao and Uyghur people and will come back soon for an introduction to another selection of fascinating ethnic groups!


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.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Hmong in America: Keeping in Touch with Old Roots

Written by John Murphy

 

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Have you heard of the Hmong people? The Hmong are one of the ethnic groups referred to as the Miao in China- the name is sometimes interchangeable. Did you know that there are actually a large group of Hmong people living in America? Many of the Hmong in America were initially resettled after the Vietnam War, fleeing as refugees from a homeland that had been rendered unsafe. Initially, in 1975, only around 3500 Hmong people were granted asylum in the United States, but by 1980 there were 30,000 Hmong people living in the United States. The number of Hmong refugees in America slowed for a bit during the early 1980s but increased again between 1987 and 1994– at this time 56,000 Hmong refugees were accepted into the United States. As of 2018, the Hmong population in the United States is around 281,000. In comparison, there are around 9.4 million Hmong people living in China (China is the country with the largest Hmong population in the world). Needless to say, the Hmong population in America is small, but they are still a very significant ethnic minority in the United States, and they represent a unique and fascinating culture.

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Initially, Hmong refugees in the United States were dispersed throughout the country by various organizations and often placed in poorer neighborhoods, which at the time consisted of primarily African American residents. Over time, however, the Hmong people generally moved together and consolidated so they could be around other Hmong people. Nowadays, the highest concentration of Hmong people in America is in the states of California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  St. Paul, Minnesota is interesting in that it has the most Hmong people per capita in the United States (roughly 10% of St. Paul is made up of Hmong people). Why is this? The cost of living in St. Paul is much lower than some other parts of the country, and jobs (such as factory jobs) were more readily available. So, living in St. Paul allowed Hmong families, who were disadvantaged in a capitalist society, to afford the necessities for a successful life.

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Hmong Americans at the University of Wisconsin

 

Hmong Americans have historically faced many challenges. However, the new generation of Hmong Americans is educated and displaying a large amount of social mobility. One struggle for Hmong Americans is the question keeping in touch with their traditional culture. Many young Hmong Americans feel like they need to identify with American culture in order to fit in, and that a lot of traditional ideas are incompatible with modern society. However, while many young Hmong Americans feel it is necessary to reform some of their traditional ideals (e.g. more rights for women and no teenage brides,) they still keep in touch with their old culture by celebrating holidays and dressing up in traditional garb. While there is still a lot of work to be done to eliminate poverty Hmong American communities, ultimately, the story of the Hmong in America is an uplifting and inspiring one and truly representative of the famous ideal of the ‘American Dream’!

 

 

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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, 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.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!

If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

China traces health condition of face-tattooed women

Chinese authorities are tracking the health records of the last group of women whose faces were tattooed in a southwestern tribal tradition as they seek to preserve the vanishing ethnic culture.

 
 Chinese Culture

Chinese authorities are tracking the health records of the last group of women whose faces were tattooed in a southwestern tribal tradition as they seek to preserve the vanishing ethnic culture.

The painful tradition of tattooing simple patterns across the nose, mouth and cheeks of women in the Dulong ethnic minority existed for hundreds of years, believed to have started in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

One of China’s 56 ethnic groups, the Dulong ethnic minority has a total population of around 7,000 living in the Dulongjiang Village in southwest Yunnan province.

The custom is believed to have started in the late Ming Dynasty about 360 years ago. The Dulong people were often attacked by other ethnic groups and women were taken as slaves. To avoid being raped, the Dulong women had their faces tattooed to make themselves less attractive.

But after the founding of New China, the tradition began to taper off and the number of Dulong women carrying remnants of the tradition in Yunnan province is dwindling.

In 2007, the number of woman with facial tattoos was 130. Now there remain just 26. The youngest of the 26 is 54, while the oldest is in her 90s.

“We have created records for the 26 women, while doctors check their health condition each month,” said Zhou Lixin, a police officer of the Dulongjiang Village in Nujiang Prefecture, Yunnan.

Doctors have been measuring vital signs such as weight and blood pressure, as well as other physical indices. They also bring medicine to the women and take them to hospital if necessary.

“They are the last face-tattooed women,” he said. “Their stories will become history, but we want them to live longer and healthier.”

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We 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 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, 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.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Miao Cuisine, Simple and Authentic

Miao people 2 You may think Miao/Hmong people are wealthy as wearing splendid silver jewelry, but in reality, most Miao/Hmong living in mountains with poor transportation and far away from commercial cities, most Miao live in simple lifestyle.

Miao/Hmong food is quite simple even during holidays and weddings. The main food is rice. Other foods are yams, millet, corn, wheat, buckwheat, and sorghum. All of them are cooked in a bamboo steamer. The Miao like hot pepper and all their food is spicy. They also like sour flavor. Vegetables are their main dish. However, they do have a few interesting delicacies. Food displayed on their table is different from any other Chinese food.

 

Oil- Tea

 

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If you go to Miao/Hmong village, you may feel shocked when the host serves you bowls after bowls of delicious oil-tea. You may feel forced to drink them all. Oil-tea is made of ginger, salt, and of course, oil. All of these ingredients are fried and mixed before put into a pot to boil with water. After the water is boiled, beans, peanuts, corn, glutinous rice, spring onions, garlic, and peppers are added. It is rich and tasty served in bowls with chopsticks. When you don’t want to drink any more, just put your chopsticks into the bowl and that signals you don’t want any more.

 

Sour Soup

 

Miao People 6 Miao people have a saying that one can’t walk if he /she doesn’t eat sour food for 3 days. Sour food is so popular that almost every Miao family has a jar to contain a sour soup with different vegetables. The vegetables can be leeks, carrots, radishes and cucumber. These vegetables are cut into pieces and mixed together with glutinous rice flour, salty water and pepper. Put all these into a jar and the soup will be ready in about 10 days. Miao people like to cook sour food together with meat, chicken or fish.

 

Rice Wine

 

Miao People 7 Like most Chinese liquor, Miao wine is made of rice. Wine toasting combined with singing and dancing are Miao’s special ways to welcome guests. For important guests, wine toasting start from the village gate all the way to their homes, usually 12 bowls along the way. The guests need to drink all these bowls of wine before arriving. If the guests can’t finish, they’ll be challenged and laughed at by the Miao people.

Miao/Hmong cuisine is rich and unique which reflect their history and interesting culture. In fact, Miao cuisine inspires the designs of Miao jewelry as well.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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