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.




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.




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.

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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.

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Miao Hmong Guzang Festival, A Living Fossil

Guzang Festival, which lasts about 7 days, takes place a little later after the Miao New Year. Guzang literally means “to bury the drum”. The Miao people believe that drums made of maple trees are the burial place of their ancestors. Therefore, this grand festival, which celebrates only every 13 years, is about burying the drum and paying homage and sacrifice to their ancestors.


Purposes of Guzang Festival


The Guzang Festival is one of the grandest festivals of the Miao Hmong ethnic tribe. It has two purposes, one of which is to commemorate the ancestors of the Miao who as pioneers has been through lots of migration and the other is to celebrate the harvests of the past year.


Legend about Guzang Festival


It is believed that the Miao people are the descendants of Chiyou, leader of Jiuli tribe living on the central and lower reaches of the Yellow river 5000 years ago in China history. At that time, the responsibilities of the tribal leader are Si and Rong. Rong means defending the tribal land, whereas Si was the lord offering sacrifices and whose task was to observe celestial phenomena. From what have been discovered from the tomb of Chiyou in Henan province and by the archaeologists, the Miao’s Guzang Festival is the ritual of the tribe alliance offering sacrifices to gods and ancestors in ancient times. The festival is regarded as a Living fossil.


Activities during Guzang Festival


The rituals are complicated and include a series of ceremonies, such as the Zhaolong (invite the dragon), the Xinggu (waken the drum), and the Yinggu (welcome the drum). After the rituals, celebrations begin, and the village becomes a joyful world of singing and dancing.

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Festivals last for three to seven days. On the first day, the elected committee in charge of the festival climbs the mountains to search for the soul of the dragon, a symbol of good luck. The shaman guides the dragon soul into a duck, which is bought specifically for this purpose. In the evening, a pig is ceremonially killed and shared among all participants during a great celebratory feast. In the past, a water buffalo would be scarified, but now pigs are killed instead. Sharing the meat symbolizes sharing in the community and the preservation of old traditions that are linked with the good fortune, prosperity and fertility of the whole village.

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During the festival, the villagers delight in eating, singing and dancing all day and all night. It is celebrated in southeast Guizhou province with areas like Leishan, Taijiang, Jianhe as well as some places around Kaili City.

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