Naxi Nakhi People

Naxi Nakhi are an ethnic group inhabit at the foothills of the Himalayas in the northwestern part of Yunnan Province, as well as the southwestern part of Sichuan Province in southwest China.

 

Origin

Dongba people

The Naxi Nakhi are believed to be the descendants of the nomadic Qiang, an ethnic group inhabiting Tibetan plateau since ancient times. During the Sui (581CE-618 CE) and Tang (618CE-907 CE) dynasties, the Naxi Nakhi were known as the Mosha-yi, or the Moxie-yi. Only after communist rule in China did they call themselves Naxi Nakhi, which means “people who worship black things “.

 

Religion

 

Dongba people

Before 1949, most Naxi Nakhi people were followers of the “Dongba” religion, which was a form of Shamanism. Sorcerers, called “Dongba,” were invited to chant scriptures at weddings, funerals, the New Year Day and other festivals. With the influence of both Han Chinese and Tibetan culture, some of the Naxi Nakhi were followers of Lamaism, Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity

 

Language

 

Dongba People

Naxi language belongs to the Chinese-Tibetan language family. More than 1,000 years ago, the Naxi people had already created pictographic characters called the “Dongba” script and a syllabic writing known as the “Geba” script. With these scripts they recorded a lot of beautiful folklore, legends, poems and religious classics. However, they were difficult to master, and in 1957 the government helped the Naxi design an alphabetic script. Over the past few hundred years, as the Naxi people have come into closer contact with the people in other parts of China politically, economically and culturally, the oral and written Chinese has become an important means of communication in Naxi society.

 

Costume

 

Dongba People

Naxi Nakhi Woman Costume in Lijiang
Dongba People

The Naxi Nakhi women wear wide-sleeved loose gowns accompanied by jackets and long trousers, tied with richly decorated belts at the waist. They often wear sheep skin slung over the shoulder, on which are seven stars exquisitely embroidered, with sun and moon symbols, one on each side. This reflects the Naxis’ admiration for diligence — “people start working early in the morning and do not stop until late in the evening.” Women in Ninglang County wear short jackets and long skirts reaching the ground, with many folds. They wrap large black cotton turbans around their heads and wear big silver earrings. Men’s garments are similar to those of the Han people.

 

Custom

 

Dongba People

The monogamous family was the main type of Naxi family. Young people’s marriages were all arranged by their parents.

Dongba People

Cremation has been a tradition since ancient times, although burial was adopted in certain Naxi Nakhi areas during the late Qing Dynasty (1644CE- 1912CE). It was common in the past to chant scriptures at the funeral ceremony to expiate the sins of the dead.

 

Music

 

 

Naxi Nakhi Dongjing Musicians in Lijiang
Dongba People Dongba People

Dongba People

Naxi Nakhi culture is largely a mixture of Tibetan and Han Chinese influences, with some indigenous elements. Especially in the case of their musical scores, it acts as the foundation of the Naxi Nakhi literature.

Naxi Nakhi music is 500 years old, and it has developed its own unique style and traits. There are three main styles: Baisha, Dongjing, and Huangjing, all using traditional Chinese instruments. The most common musical instruments are flutes, reed pipes and wind-string instruments. The Naxis are fond of singing and dancing, especially at weddings and funerals. The most popular songs are descriptive and short. They are sung at very high pitch and with strong rhythms, to the accompaniment of simple dances.

 

Art and Architecture

 

Dongba People

Naxi architecture, sculpture and painting have reached fairly high standards. Absorbing architectural styles of the Han and the Tibetan, the houses of the Naxi Nakhi are built in a unique vernacular style of one courtyard with five skylights, which have a crude and simple appearance, but with elaborate and delicate patterns on casements and doors. The ancient Naxi Nakhi town of Lijiang is now a major tourist destination.

Dongba People

The temples, though looking very staid and ordinary from the outside, are decorated on the interior with carvings on poles, arches and idols of gods. The decorations include depictions of episodes from epics, dancers, warriors, animals and birds, and flowers. The mural paintings depict Dongba gods, and are derived from Tibetan styles.

 

Festivals

 

Dongba People Dongba People

The traditional festivals include the “Farm-Tool Fair” in January, “God of the Rain Festival” in March, and “Mule and Horse Fair” in July. There are also the Lunar New Year, the Pure Brightness Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Torch Festival — all being the same as those of the Hans.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Naxi Nakhi Dongba Culture

The term Dongba, Tomba or Tompa , which is from Naxi Nakhi language, means “the wise” and refers to the religious priests, the culture, and script of the Naxi Nakhi people, who are found in southwestern China. Dongba Culture consists of its writings, scriptures, paintings, dance and music.

 

Dongba Religion

Dongba culture can’t separate from Dongba religion. The Dongba religion was developed at the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618-907CE) on the basis of Naxis’ primitive shamanism and it absorbed the Bon religion culture of the Tibetans.

Dongba Culture

Dongba religion is mainly passed on by Dongbas. The Dongba, also known as wise men, are believed to be the priests of the Bön religion. They play a major role in the Naxi culture, and preach harmony between man and nature. Their costumes show strong Tibetan influence, and pictures of Bön gods can be seen on their headgear. Tibetan prayer flags and Taoist offerings can be seen in their rituals.

Dongba Culture

Religious rituals are also conducted by the priests to propitiate the spirits, as they were believed to be living in every part of the natural world.

This can be evidenced from the fact that the core of the Dongba religion is based on the belief that both man and nature are two brothers born of two mothers and the same father.

 

Dongba Script

 

Dongba script, possessing more than 1400 characters, is a pictographic writing system used by the Bon priests of the Naxi people and believed to be the only well preserved living pictographic langrage in the world. Together with the geba syllabary and the Latin alphabet, it is one of the three Naxi scripts. Dongba is perhaps a thousand years old. The glyphs may be used as rebuses for abstract words which do not have glyphs. It is largely a mnemonic system, and cannot by itself represent the Naxi language. Different authors may use the same glyphs with different meanings, and it may be supplemented with the syllabic geba script for clarification.

Dongba Culture

About 40,000 volumes of Dongba scriptures have been found today, all written in Dongba pictographic characters. These scriptures are kept in the libraries or museums of many countries other than China, such as the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany and Austria. The Dongba scriptures have covered a wide range of knowledge. They are precious references for the study of the ancient philosophy, religion, folklore, history, art and literature of the Naxi nationality.

 

Dongba painting

 

Dongba Culture Dongba Culture

Dongba painting includes board painting, bamboo pen painting, card painting, rod painting, and huge cloth scroll painting. The painting skills are distinctive: some have rough lines and primitive & crude patterns and some are colorful and bright with delicate technique of writing. The Painting “God’s road” is over 10 meters long and is a rare treasure of painting art.

 

Dongba dance

 

Dongba Culture Dongba Culture

The Naxi Dongba priests use dance as an integral part of their rituals. When they are called upon to help send a recently deceased soul on its long, arduous path to the afterlife, or exorcise a ghost, or indeed perform sacrifices to the Gods; ritual dance is invariably involved, alongside recitation of the relevant scriptures.

The tools used by the Dongba in the dance can be narrowed down to the following three: a bell that represents the sun, a hand drum that represents the moon, and the knife. The dances themselves often enact legendary stories told in the scriptures, and the dongba must play the roles of the people and Gods involved, and more frequently the animals – tigers, horses, birds etc, reflecting a form of shamanist animism.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Uyghur Tribe in China

 

Location

 

The Uyghur (also spelled Uygur , Uighur , Uigur ) are a Turkic people of Central Asia. Today Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. There are also existing Uyghur communities in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Germany, and Turkey and a smaller one in Taoyuan County of Hunan province in south-central China.
musical instruments

 

History

 

Historically the term Uyghur was applied to a group of Turkic-speaking tribes that lived in the Altay Mountains. Uyghur means unity or alliance. The origin of the ethnic group can be traced back to the Dingling nomads in northern and northwestern China and in areas south of Lake Baikal and between the Irtish River and Lake Balkhash in the third century B.C.

 

Livelihood

 

The Uyghur farm areas are around the Tarim Basin and the Gobi Desert. Wheat, maize and paddy rice are the region’s main grain crops, and cotton is a major cash crop. The Tianshan Mountains are rich in coal and iron, the Altay in gold, and the Kunlun in jade. The region also has big deposits of non-ferrous and rare metals and oil, and rich reserves of forests and land open to reclamation.

 

Costume

 

The cotton growing and cotton yarn spinning industry has a long history. People usually wear cotton cloth garments. The Uygur, old and young, men and women, like to wear a small cap with four pointed corners, embroidered with black and white or colored silk threads in traditional Uygur costumes. Girls in the past combed their hair into a dozen braids, and regarded long hair as part of female beauty. After marriage, they usually wear two braids with loose ends, decorated on the head with a crescent-shaped comb. Some tuck up their braids into a bun.
musical instruments

 

Religion

 

The Uyghur believe in Islamism. Over the centuries, many mosques, mazas (Uygur complexes, nobles’ tombs), theological seminaries and religious courts were set up in Uygur areas. Over the past few hundred years, religion has greatly influenced economic, judicial and educational affairs and the Uygur family and matrimonial system.
musical instruments

 

Literature

 

The Uyghur language and script contributed to the enrichment of civilizations of the other peoples in Central Asia. Compared to the Europeans of that time, the Uyghur were far more advanced. Most of the early Uyghur literary works were translations of Buddhist and Manichean religious texts, but there were also narrative, poetic, and epic works. Some of these have been translated into German, English, Russian, and Turkish. After the general population’s conversion to Islam, world-renowned Uyghur scholars emerged and Uyghur literature flourished.

 

Music

 

The Uygur are excellent at singing and dancing. The Twelve Mukams is an opera epic comprising more than 340 classic songs and folk dances. This musical treasure, which was on the verge of being lost, was collected, studied and recorded.
musical instruments
There is a wide variety of plucked, wind and percussion Uygur musical instruments, including the Dutar , strummed Rawap and Dap . The first two are instruments with a clear and crisp tone for solo and orchestral performances. Dap is a sheepskin tambourine with many small iron rings attached to the rim. It is used to accompany dancing.
musical instruments

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Bai Ethnic Tribe Religion – Multi Worships

The religious beliefs of Bai ethnic people are complex and varied. Some people believe in Daoism, but most people believe in Buddhism and Benzhu, local Gods. It is very common to find Buddhist, Daoist and Benzhu shrines coexist in temples of Bai villages.

 

Buddhism

 

Bai Ethnic
Bai people believed in Buddhism since the 7th century. In fact, Guanyin, the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy, plays an important role in the oldest myths of the Bai. The Bai embrace Buddhist beliefs about the afterlife and reincarnation and believe that honored ancestors protect the living and drive malevolent spirits and ghosts away. In ancient times, the Bai cremated their dead. Under Chinese influence they began burying the dead, sometimes in elaborate tombs. In modern time, cremation was encouraged to save land.

 

Animism

 

In the more remote places there are still vestiges of Bai primitive animism. It is not difficult to find places where different gods are honored, such as the God of the Mountain, the God of the Crops, the God of the Hunt, the Dragon King or the Mother Goddess of the Dragon King. The Bai believe that spirits can cause illness, but can also protect them. They believe that illnesses are caused by the possession of evil spirits and can be treated by shaman who has the power to enter into trance.

 

Benzhu Religion

 

The Benzhu religion is unique to the Bai people. It plays an important role in Bai people’s life. Benzhu religion believes in gods of natural spirit, totem, historical and legendary figures and ancestors as Bai people believe these figures or natural spirits can protect their life.

Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic
Each village, which has seen an increasing and fluid pantheon of Gods throughout its existence, has incorporated its own history and legends in deifying former village leaders, warriors, and heroes. These deities, tied to the immediate surroundings, protect the people against sickness and violence, foster the local crops and livestock, and ensure prosperity. They become a personal and omniscient god, lending solidarity to each village’s life. Benzhu is considered as the guardian of village.

Generally speaking one village consecrates one Benzhu and there is also the case that several villages consecrated one Benzhu. In every village around Erhai Lake the Bai people have developed a singular mythology around their own Local Lord, a mythology completely different from that of neighboring villages.

Benzhu Festivals in Dali corresponds to the lunar calendar and are after Chinese New Year. During such festivals, the Benzhu shrine are taken from the temple and carried through town to a different location where they will stay for a designated number of days. The villagers will follow the gods to the designated spot burning incense and worshiping with food and money.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Dai Ethnic Tribe, Home of Peacock

 

Population and Location

 

The Dai are one of the 55 ethnic groups of China. The name Dai, meaning free people, has been officially used since 1953 to replace “Tai” or “Thai.”

There are about 1.5 million Dai in China. Most of the Dai live in the Xishuangbanna and Dehong Dai-Jingpo autonomous prefectures in southern Yunnan province of China. Musical Instruments

 

Language

 

The Dai language belongs to the Zhuang-Dai branch of the Zhuang-Dong group of Sino-Tibetan languages. The written language was derived from Devanagari and differs from region to region.

 

Livelihood and Housing

 

Musical Instruments
Most Dai grow rice. They also raise livestock, tea, tobacco, sugar cane, rubber, fruit, camphor, coffee, sisal hemp and vegetables. Local industry and craftsmanship includes embroidery, weaving, musical instruments and bamboo ware. Jade and drugs are traded illegally in this region.

Most Dai live in valleys and bamboos houses built on stilts. They live on the top floor; the lower floor is for domestic animals, and balconies are used for friend visiting.

 

Dating and Marriage

 

Musical Instruments
Dai are famous for their dating and marriage customs. Teenage girls traditionally have a room away from their parents so she can meet her lover. A girl shows her interest in a young man through singing and a young man would play Hulusi to express his love to the girl.

On the wedding, the parents tie a silk thread in the hands of bride and bridegroom to pray for a good future and bless they can love each other all their life.

The Dai community is so close knitted that traditionally they do not use family names, believing that they are all of the same family.

 

Culture

 

The Dais have a rich and colorful culture. They have their own calendar, which started in 638AD. There are books in Dai script for calculating solar and lunar eclipses. Dai historical documents carry a rich variety of literary works covering poetry, legends, stories, fables and children’s tales.

 

Music

 

Musical Instruments
Their achievements in music are well-known among all the ethnic groups. They love singing and dancing, accompanied by their native musical instruments. Their folk and traditional musical instruments include bronze drum and Hulusi. Peacock dance is their most popular folk dance.

 

Religion

 

Musical Instruments
The Dai religion is Theravada Buddhism. This sect of Buddhism was introduced into the Dai region more than a thousand years ago. The Dai also take part in animistic worship by offering sacrifices to spirits and ancestors. In actuality, the Dai are perhaps more animistic than Buddhist.

In the mind of the Dai people, the “Holy Bird” peacock is a symbol of happiness and auspiciousness, and thereby is a common role in numerous folk legends.

There were many Buddhist temples in the countryside, and it was a common practice, especially in Xishuangbanna, to send young boys to the temples to learn to read and write and chant scriptures, as a form of schooling. Some of them became monks, while most of them returned to secular life.

 

Festivals

 

Musical Instruments
Important Dai festivals are the Water-splashing Festival, the Door-closing Festival and the Door-opening Festival, all of which are related to Buddhism. The Water-splashing Festival is the New Year of the Dai ethnic minority. On the 24th to 26th day of the sixth month of the Dai calendar, people engage in traditional activities such as water-splashing and dragon-boating, hoping to pacify evil spirits and ensure a good harvest in the coming year.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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White Bai Ethnic Tribe

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.

 

Location

 

Bai Ethnic
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.

 

Language

 

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.

 

Livelihood

 

Bai Ethnic
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.

 

Costume

 

Bai Ethnic
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.

 

Local Houses

 

Bai Ethnic 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

 

Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic
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.

 

Religion

 

Bai Ethnic
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.

 

Festivals

 

Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic
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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Long Horn Miao and Short Skirt Miao

The Miao ethnic people has a population of over 8 million larger than most of other minority groups in China. After immigration throughout history, today they live mainly in Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan, Hubei, Hainan Provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Prefecture. Such a wide distribution and the influence of different environments have resulted in marked differences in dialects, names and clothes. Based on style and color difference in costumes, the Miao divided into Long Skirt Miao, Short Skirt Miao, Long Horn Miao, Red Miao, Black Miao, Flowery Miao, etc. Here we introduce two types: Long Horn Miao and Short Skirt Miao.

 

Long Horn Miao

 

Miao Costume The Long Horn Miao got their name from their special custom of using horn as head decoration. They live in the mountains 2,000 meters above sea level in 12 villages next to each other with a total population of 4,000. In normal days the women simply wrap their hair behind their head around a sharp-ended wooden board. They wear long horns only on holidays and festivals, together with the decorative hair (wig) made of linen, wool and hair. The decorative hair is three meters long and 2 kilograms in weight. They first fix the horn with their real hair and then wrap the “decorative hair” around the wooden frame into the shape of a horizontal “8” and tie it to the horn with a piece of white cord. The heavy ornament places extra strain on their neck and waist, making them walk in a special posture.

 

Short Skirt Miao

 

Miao Costume Short Skirt Miao (or Mini Skirt Miao) live in the depths of the southeastern Guizhou Province mountainous regions with the population of 50,000 to 60,000. This region has a pleasant temperate climate all year round. Some live in Langdong, Kongshen, and Konglie villages of Rongjiang County, while others live in the Datang area of Leishan County, and Paidiao area of Danzhai County.

Their daily and festival clothing are both distinct and colorful. The typical costume is a tunic top and mini skirt. The top is decorated with silver ornaments and with gorgeously embroidered patterns of dragon, phoenix, fish, birds and beasts. The minis skirt is hand knitted and is no more than 20 centimeters long.

Previously due to the poor transportation of the remote areas, the Long Horn Miao and Short Skirt Miao have little connection with the outside world and therefore, their culture could be preserved. However, with many highways and roads built in the past ten years in China and increasing number of tourists to these villages, their unique culture and tradition are acing challenges. Meanwhile, with the open to outside world, followed are conflicts between their own ethnics and modern civilizations.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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