March Fair Festival of Bai Ethnic

March Fair is the grandest festival of the year for the Bai ethnics. Held from the 15th day to the 21st day of the third lunar month every year at the foot of the Mount Cangshan, west to the ancient city of Dali, the Bai hold the festival mainly for harvest. Bai Ethnic


History and Origin


There are two legends about the festival.

One legend goes like this. At the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618 -907 AD), the devil called Luocha occupied the territory of today’s Dali and persecuted the people. During the zhenguan Period (627-649 AD), Bodhisattva from the today’s India subdued the devil and save people from the suffer. Ever since, people would gather at the ancient town, offering vegetables to Bodhisattva. Bai Ethnic
The other legend has it that back in the period of Nanzhao State (938-1253 AD), the Bodhisattva came to Dali to speak on Buddhism on the 15th of the third lunar month, and then the Daili became a place for loyal believers to pay homage. As time went, for Dali’s strategic location, the city became a prosperous trade market in the region and a grand festival for the local people.

Currently there is no reliable record of the start of March Fair. But these two local legends offer an interesting explanation. Even though the two legends fail to give reasonable and convincing reasons on the history of the occasion, they at least show the fair was related to religion at its first stage.


Present-Day March Fair


Bai Ethnic Nowadays March Fair has become a prosperous commercial fair with tens of thousands of participants and a total volume of trade of over ten millions each year. During the March Fair, the streets at Dali town are competing with stalls selling a variety of items. Bai Ethnic March Fair is also a commodity and cultural fair. Besides the Bai ethnic people, other minority groups such as the Yi, Tibetan, Naxi, Nu, Hui in that region will all throng to the fair that day and horse race and other traditional folk activities are held. People gather there to enjoy dances, horse racing and other activities. It is now an official festival of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture.

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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.




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.

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.

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Torch Festival of Bai Ethnic People

The Torch Festival is a traditional festival celebrated among some ethnic groups in southwestern China, such as the Yi, Bai, Hani, Lisu, Naxi, Pumi and Lahu etc. The festival features lighting up torches, hence its name. It usually falls in early June of the lunar calendar or on the 24th or 25th of the month, with three days of celebrations. Bai Ethnic




The origin of the festival may have something to do with the worship of fire by ancestors, who believed fire had the power to repel insects, drive away evils and to protect crop growth. For some ethnic groups, it is a tradition in the festival for elders to share farming experience with young people and educate them on taking care of crops.


Setting up Torch


Bai Ethnic The Bai celebrate the annual Torch Festival on the 25th of the sixth month of the Chinese lunar calendar in a special way. They wear costumes and butcher pigs and sheep for a feast. Children dye their fingernails red with a kind of flower root. On the eve of the festival, people get everything ready for the big celebration. They set up a large torch about 20 meters high made of stalks and pine branches. On the top of the torch sits a large flag. Several small flags are fixed around the torch, printed with auspicious Chinese characters meaning peaceful land, favorable weather, bumper harvest, and abundant farm animals. Fruits, fireworks, and lanterns are hung around the torch.


Worshipping Ancestors and Horse Riding


Bai Ethnic
The next day, people first go to their ancestors’ tombs and hold a memorial ceremony, bringing offerings and burning small torches and papers that symbolize money. People have dinner earlier than usual. Then, after dinner, the young and the old gather at the village square to watch the big torch and go horse riding. Both adults and children take part in the horse riding. Before they ride away, they go around the torch three times. Those who don’t ride the horse go home to enjoy the torches in front of the houses and then select the most beautiful torch of the village. Young mothers carry babies on their back and walk around the village torch three times to pray for the health of their babies.


Lighting Torch

Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic At nightfall, the senior people of the village lead the other villagers to offer sacrifices to the torch and to kowtow. After this is done, several young men climb up the torch and light it. In no time, a flame rages, accompanied by drumbeats and the sound of firecrackers. Such a spectacular scene it is! As the fire continues, broken bamboo sticks fall to the ground and people try their best to catch them. Those who catch the sticks are thought of as lucky and are warmly congratulated. The lucky ones entertain the other villagers at their homes with cigarettes, wine, and tea.


Torch Playing


Bai Ethnic The festival reaches its climax with the traditional torch playing. Young men and women hold a torch. When they meet someone, they scatter colophony powder onto the torch fire and the fire flares up. People think this expels whammy from their bodies. Then, young people go to the farms and fields with the torch in the hope of eliminating pests. Near the end of the celebration, people lay torches on the ground and set them on fire. Now it is time for people to jump over the fire three times, one by one. They jump and pray to the god of fire for security and good luck. Finally, they go home filled with excitement and the celebration ends.

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Philosophy of Life in Three-Course Tea of Bai Ethnic

China is a tea-drinking nation. For the Bai, tea is a popular drink. They normally drink tea twice a day, in the early morning and at noon. The tea drunk in the early morning is called “morning tea” or “wakening tea,” and is consumed immediately after getting up. The tea drunk at noon is called “relaxing tea” or “thirst-satisfying tea.” People often add some popcorn and milk to their tea. Bai Ethnic




The Bai began to plant tea and make tea long ago, and they have formed their unique tea culture on tea drinking, which is called “Three-course Tea of Bai Ethnic”. Early in Ming (1368-1644 AD) and Qing (1616-1912 AD) Dynasty, the Three-course Tea had already become a conventional way that Bai ethnic treat visitors.


What Is Three-Course Tea?


The Three-course Tea is a tea drinking ceremony practiced by the Bai ethnic group on holidays or when treating honored guests. Every course has different taste, implying the philosophy of life that “bitter the first, sweet the second and aftertaste the third.” This ceremony was originally held by the senior members or the most reverent member of a family.


Three Courses


Bai Ethnic For the first course of tea, the tea needs to be put into a small pottery jar first and roasted on fire until the tealeaves become yellow and give off a charred smell. After added with boiled water, the tea is ready for drink in small cups. It is amber in color with rich fragrance and a bitter taste, meaning that one will suffer a lot before she/he starts his or her career.

By adding new water into the jar, boiling and pouring the tea into a bowl with brown sugar and walnuts, the second course of tea is done. The tea is fragrant and sweet, symbolizing the meaning of “no sweet without sweat”.

The third course is made through pouring boiled tea into a bowl with honey and Sichuan pepper. The tea is sweet, bitter and spicy with great aftertaste, which implies that we need to remain a placid frame of mind after having been through all tastes.

Bai Ethnic The Three-course Tea of the Bai ethnic minority became a ceremony for treating guests or friends of the people of Bai in as early as the Ming Dynasty, delivering people the profound connotation of treating life and career with an ordinary and placid mindset.

After unearthing and the wide spread publicized by tourists, viewing the process of making the “Three-Course Tea” and tasting the Bai ethnic tea culture is widely loved by the tourists. If you go to Dali, do not forget to taste this unique tea. That is another kind of enjoyment!

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Mothers’ Love in Baby Carrier

Monogamous families have been the basic social cells of the Bais, with a very few people who practiced polygamy. Parents live with their unmarried children, but only in big landlord families did four generations live together.

Bai Ethnic
Bai children are given a lot of attention when they are young. You can see many contented babies in beautiful carriers in Bai Tribe. The carriers are padded with a layer of horse hair and quilted felt. The ties are crisscrossed in front and tied around the mother’s waist to secure the baby.


Bai embroidered baby-carrier


Bai Ethnic Bai women hope for a daughter to help with domestic work. Before she gives birth, a woman’s parents will send “delivery-hastening” food to her, which always includes a boiled egg with a needle in it. When eating the egg, the women will first see whether the needle is pointing up or down. An upward-pointing needle heralds the arrival of a boy, while the converse hints to the birth of a girl. If the first born baby is a girl, she is thought to bring happiness to her parents and the whole family.

Bai Ethnic If the first born baby is a girl, she is carried in an embroidered baby carrier called a guobei, which is unique to the Bai nationality. The epaulet of the guobei is usually made of black flannel with embroidered peony flowers in the center and plum blossom and chrysanthemum on both sides, all surrounded by dancing butterflies and a phoenix above and lotus with green leaves, magpies, animals, and flowers at the bottom.

Bai Ethnic The lower part is usually made of white cloth with patterns of balls pieced together from cloth strips. The tie braces are embroidered to match the entire bright color of the guobei. This guobei is said to not only protect the women’s waist and belly, but also make the baby free and comfortable on the adult’s back, where she cannot interrupt the work of her mother. Bai Ethnic The Bai people believe that flowers are symbol of happiness and auspiciousness and hope girls are as pure and pretty as flowers, so many names are connected with flowers. Jinhua (golden flower) means the girl is as precious as gold. Today, the name Jinhua is recognized as a Bai name, because it has come to symbolize the good nature of Bai women. The life of Bai women is a struggle to create a life as beautiful as flowers.

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Bai Ethnic Tribe Traditional Wedding

As one of China’s 55 ethnic tribes, the Bai ethnic group has its own distinctive marriage rituals and they keep the tradition of monogamy.


Wedding Banquet

Bai Ethnic
Bai Ethnic

According to its marriage rituals, a girl will give the boy a piece of Baba, a kind of rice cake, if she agrees to his proposal. Before the wedding, the groom’s family will prepare a wedding tent, and on the eve of the wedding day, they should invite those who are good at Chinese opera to perform in this tent. Neighbors and relatives will come to enjoy the performance while having fruits, wine and tea prepared by the host. After the performance, the guests should share a bowl of Tangyuan, a kind of sweet dumpling made of glutinous rice, to express their best wishes for the new couple.


Carrying Bride on the Back


Bai Ethnic Carrying the bride on the back is a typical marriage tradition in Bai ethnic minority. During the wedding ceremony, the groom has to carry his bride on his back, walking along the route in the shape of the number eight. Bai Ethnic While in some other places, the groom need not go to escort his bride to his home and instead invites his best men to do it. The best men go to the bride’s home with the music played by Suona, a folk musical instrument. When the best men arrive, the bride’s family does not immediately go out to welcome them until Suona players finish playing the joyous music for six times.


Pinching Bride


Bai Ethnic Another interesting tradition in Bai wedding is the guests can pinch the bride for good luck. The bride cannot get angry even when she feels painful.


Wedding Ceremony

After the bride enters the bridal chamber, a ceremony is held for the new couple to kowtow to the Heaven and Earth, and to their parents. The next day, the bridegroom sends the God of Happiness to the home of the bride’s parents and the bride pays her first visit after marriage to her parents. In general, the bride returns to her new home the same day. If it is far away, she stays in her parents’ home for the night. This signifies the end of the wedding ceremony.

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Tie-Dyeing of Bai Ethnic

Tie dyeing is the traditional handicraft of the Bai. The tie-dyes are not merely daily attire of the Bai people , they are art pieces, considered as precious relics in Chinese art.




Bai Ethnic
Tie-dyeing has a very long history, dating back to over 1,000 years ago. Tie-dyeing skill, known as “skein tie” in the ancient time, is a kind of old textile dyeing workmanship in China. Tie-dye craft of Bai nationality in Dali is introduced from the central plains of China and now is mainly spread around Dali city, Dacang and Miaojie street of Weishang county. And the industry of tie-dyeing in Zhoucheng Village in Dali City of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture is most famous so it is awarded the title of “The Hometown of National Tie-Dyeing”.




Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic There is a vast repertoire of tie-dye patterns, including flowers, plants, birds, mammals, fish, insects, folk characters and symbols, most of which are wishes for auspiciousness and good luck. The 1,000 or more tie-dye designs also reflect Bai history, culture, customs and aesthetic preferences. Having both decorative and practical applications, tie-dyed fabric is fashioned into both clothing and items of interior décor.


Dying Material


Bai EthnicBai tie-dyeing alone uses Radix isatidis, a Chinese medicinal herb used to dissipate heat, remove toxic substances and diminish inflammation and detumescence, as a dyeing agent. It once grew in wild profusion, but high demand of tie-dye articles has depleted the herb, and the Bai people now cultivate Radix isatidis in mountainous areas.
Tie-dyed fabrics are in more muted shades than those that have been through a chemical process. They are also less apt to fade and more hardwearing. The medicinal qualities of the Radix isatidis dye make Bai tie-dyed garments and bedding comfortable to wear and soothing to the skin, especially in hot weather.


Tie-dyeing Technique





Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic Tie, was originally named knotting, means that after the selection of cloth material, according to the requirement of the motif and pattern, the craftsmen take methods such as pinching & crimpling, folding, turning & rolling, squeezing & pulling to make the clothe become certain shapes and then stitch and bind, and tighten them, so strings of “knots” appear on the material.




Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic Dip-dyeing means that the makers dip and wash the well-made “knots” with clean water and then put them in the dye vat. It can be soaked and dyed in cold, and it can also be dyed with hot water; after a certain period of time, it is taken out and air dried, and then the cloth is put in the dye vat again, and the actions aforesaid should be repeated for several times. After each time, the cloth will become more “blue”. The parts which have been stitched become nice-looking patterns naturally, as the dyes fail to reach them; the stitches are not the same, the dyeing degrees are not the same, so many arbitrations are presented on the cloth, thus the artist flavor come out.


Maintenance and cleaning of tie-dyed cloth


Soak with cold saltwater before the first cleaning. Because using pure natural wood indigo as the dyestuff. Do not exposure in the sun or wash with other products which are easy to fade.

Dali Bai tie-dyeing cloth displays an artistic style of strong national flavors. It is the epitome of the thousand-year history of the Bai people, and it reflects Bai people’s national customs and aesthetical interest, so the tie-dyeing skill and other craftsmanship constitute the unique and charming weaving and dyeing culture of the Bai nationality.

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Bai Ethnic Costume Simple But Elegant

Bai people’s costume has a long history. During the Nanzhao Regime (738-937 AD) and the Dali Kingdom (937 -1253 AD), Bai people created their own styles of clothing. The clothes of the Bai people are bright and well-matching in colors, delicate and fine in embroideries, and plain and simple in style.

White is the favorite color of the Bai. They believe white represents dignity and high social status, and this can be seen in their clothing. It is typical for men to wear white outer upper garments and white trousers. Girls and women have more choices of colors. They like to wear white, light blue or pink outer upper garments and rosy, purple or black waistcoats. Bai Ethnic

The Bai enjoy their lives and love flowers. Bai clothing is usually adorned with camellia flowers because this flower is commonly see in Bai area and they view these flowers as a symbol of beauty. They like to wear a red scarf on their shoulders and a white outer upper garment, a combination that resembles blooming camellias. An unmarried girl always combs her hair into one pigtail, tied with a red string at its end, and then coils it over her head. She also likes to wear an apron with embroideries. In general, girls enjoy dressing up like beautiful camellia flowers.


Women Clothing


The clothes for young women of the Bai ethnic group mainly include the headdress, top garment, waistcoats, apron and pants. The top garment is usually white, yellow cream, lake blue or light green and the waistcoats are black or red, with silver dangling ornaments attached to the button area at the right. An embroidered or dark-colored apron is tied to the waist and a pair of blue or white pants is the usual lower garment. In some cases, the upper and lower garments are of the same color; in others, a different color is applied to the top garment, the waistcoat, the apron and the pants respectively. The multiple colors go perfectly well with one another. Bai Ethnic Bai Ethnic

In addition, the Bai women wear exquisite headdress that nicely match with their clothes. The headdresses worn by women in different areas have different features. 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.


Men Clothing


Bai Ethnic

Typical dresses for men of the Bai ethnic group include a white jacket, pants, leggings, straw sandals, and the outer black jacket with no sleeves and made of fine fabric like leather or silk. The whole set of costume, commonly known as three drops of water. A belt bag is tied to the waist and the pants are mostly black or blue.

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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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.

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