The Tibetan People – an authentic Journey through their Lands and Culture

Written by Harry Wilson

Welcome to the third part of our introductory series to the ethnic minority groups of China.  Today we take a closer look at neighbouring Tibet and the wonderful culture of this underappreciated land. If you plan on visiting Tibet in the near future, this blogpost will serve as a guide for all things you might need before your trip, as well as an insight into some of the incredible cultural phenomena you will get to experience first-hand!

Before you head to Tibet, make sure to get your visa!  Tibet Entry Permits are required to enter the country if you are a non-Chinese citizen.  You don’t want to get off to the wrong start on your trip.  Probably the most important thing to know is that it is a good idea to get into good physical shape before your trip, as the average altitude is around 4500 meters (14700 feet) above sea level, so there’s a chance you may suffer from altitude sickness.  Despite the sub-freezing temperatures, many Tibetans go barefoot!!! Interestingly, the boiling temperature of water is so low at this altitude, that boiling water from a pot would not burn human skin!

Due to the average altitude of the country and its many plateau’s, Tibet has been referred to by many as “the roof of the world”, with its incredible vistas from the top of Mount Everest.

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A view of the mountains from an airplane – all credit to Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Tibet is also home to the world’s highest plateau.  The 37000 glaciers that accompany it provide water to more than HALF OF ASIA, which if you think about it, is truly incredible for a nation of its size and socio-economic position in the world.  Tibet has many incredible views, including Namtso (Lake Nam), which is commonly referred to as “Heavenly Lake” in European literature, as well as the Potala Palace.  The efforts required to deal with the altitude in Tibet will all be made worthwhile by the breathtaking (not that you need anymore breath to be taken away haha) views and cultural experiences!

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A Man spinning his Prayer Wheel in front of the Potala Palace – all credit to Damir Sagolj/Reuters

In the image above you get a chance to take a first look at the Potala Palace, formerly the residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising.  Today, it is used as a museum and one of several World Heritage Sites in the country.  The palace contains over 1000 rooms, 10000 shrines and around 200000 statues.  If that doesn’t show you how much religion means to this country, then nothing will.

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A plethora of stones being engraved with Buddhist scriptures by a local craftsman

A lot of jobs in Tibet are religion-related, as religion is a daily, if not hourly practice.  Some jobs including carving stones with Buddhist scriptures, woodblock scripture painting and Thangka painting, a traditional form of Tibetan Buddhist painting, are an extremely important part of Tibetan culture.  Tibetans spend years mastering these arts and can spend months or even years on a single piece.  The carvings and paintings will often contain scriptures or the story of the Buddha in meticulous detail.

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Inside the studio of an expert local wood carver

Merit is of vital importance to Tibetan Buddhists and can be gained through participating in a variety of activities.  Tibetans spend much of their time praying, spinning prayer wheels (as seen above) and hanging prayer flags.  All these activities earn them merit.  It is also important for them to send their sons to monasteries, participate in pilgrimages, do good deeds and present gifts to lamas in order to further increase their merit.

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A highly detailed Thangka painting available at InteractChina

Still not convinced of the beauty of Tibet – take a look at this wonderful short video produced by the incredible team at National Geographic which gives great insight into the magnificent structure, the Potala Palace:

Want to learn more about Tibet, its culture and inhabitants?  Take a look at this extended documentary on the area:

Finally, if you were interested in the Thangka discussed in this blogpost, here is some more information including a link to our website where you can find out more!  Thangka are Tibetan Buddhist paintings on cotton or silk and normally depict a Buddhist deity, scene or mandala.  They are usually kept unframed and rolled up when not on display, and when treated and kept correctly they can last in incredibly long time.  If your interest has been aroused and you would like to see some authentic Thangka, please visit our website – https://www.interactchina.com/thangka-painting

 

 

 

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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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! 

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!

Architectures of the Bai Ethnic

A unique building style with minority features has been mastered by generations of artisans of the Bai ethnics who have absorbed abundant building art of the Central Plains over tens of hundreds of years.

 

Religious Architecture

 

The superb architectural skill of the Bai people is represented by the three pagodas at the Chongsheng Temple in Dali. Built during the Tang Dynasty(June 18, 618–June 4, 907), the 16-storey main tower is 60 meters high and still stands erect after more than 1,000 years. It bears a resemblance to the Dayan Pagoda (Wild Goose) in Xi’an, an ancient Chinese capital city in today’s Shaanxi Province. Bai Ethnic

Figurines in the Shibaoshan Grottoes in Jianchuan County are lifelike, possessing both the common features of figure creation in China and the unique features of the Bai artists. The architectural group in the Jizushan Temple, with bow-shaped crossbeams, bracket-inserted columns, and gargoyles representing people, flowers and birds created with the open carving method, shows the excellent workmanship of the Bai people. The Bais also have high attainments in lacquer ware.

 

Folk house

 

Nowadays, reflection-inducing cultural features of the Bai ethnics can still be perceived in the folk house.

The folk house of the Bai ethnics is the folk architecture of the Bai people. It is often seen in the areas where the Bai ethnics are living, such as Dali, Eryuan, Jianchuan, and Heqing in Yunnan Province.

Bai Ethnic

The folk house of the Bai ethnics is mainly a two-storey building, with its plane layout usually being Three Rooms and One Screen Wall. It’s a courtyard composed of three houses with three rooms and a screen wall facing the gate with bounding wall.

Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic The houses are built in a structure of brick and wood, in the middle of which there is the principal room with side rooms on both sides. Facing the principal room there is a screen wall. The gate of the yard is opened on the side of the screen wall, which, together with an arch over the gateway, is built with brick and stone. White wall and black tile look dazzling. And the rich and solid designs made of clay sculpture, woodcarving, colored drawing, stone inscription, marble screen and dark brick look exquisite and elegant. Bai Ethnic

Serving as an integral part of the folk house of the Bai ethnics is the screen wall, the upper edge of which is fitted with upswept eaves built of blue tiles or colored glaze tiles, and the middle part of which is embedded with marble screen or written with auspicious expressions, with the surroundings being colored drawing patterns of various types.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

P.S. We need people with similar passion to join or partner with us in promoting ethnic handicrafts! Please contact us at interact@interactchina.com to make any suggestions that you may have in co-operating with us, or join as Affiliate.