Dayao County Culture
The have traditionally honored a pantheon of spirits and gods—including ones representing animals, plants, the sun, the moon and the stars—and incorporated elements of Buddhism and Taoism into their spiritual belief system. Sacrifices have been made to ancestors and ghost have been placated. According to the Yi creation myth: “In the beginning there was only women.” Protestant and Catholic missionaries had some success converted the Yi in the early 20th century and some of these communities remain alive today.
Yi shaman are known as bimo. Highly respected, they carry out sacrifices and perform healing rituals with incense and bowls of chicken blood. Headmen are responsible for controlling ghosts with magic. Often bimo were the only ones who could read the sacred texts that included clan histories, myths and literature.The chicken is an important totemic animal to the Yi. It is honored in a special dance performed at night by dozens of people wearing hats with strung beads arranged in the shape of chicken combs. To the accompaniment of a moon guitars, the dancers execute fast tempo steps from the knee down that mimic the movements of a chicken.
According to the Chinese government: The Yis in Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi believed in polytheism before liberation 1949, combining worship for ancestors with the influence of Taoism and Buddhism. The Yis in the Liangshan Mountains worshipped gods and ghosts and believed in idolatry, and offered sacrifices to forefathers frequently. Their religious activities were presided over by sorcerers.
According to the U.S. Department of State: “Adherents of the Bimo shamanistic religion, practiced by many of the eight million ethnic Yi living in southwest China, continued to seek government approval to register Bimo as an officially sanctioned religion, but were unable to do so. This limited the Yi people’s ability to preserve their religious heritage.