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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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

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.