XishuangBanna Culture

Xishuangbanna Ethnic Culture is diverse and colorful. It is a place where multi-ethnic groups inhabit. Different nationalities create different cultures. Xishuangbanna boasts amazing Dai culture, profound Puer tea culture, and cultures of other ethic groups, etc. All these will make your Yunnan Travel more attractive and productive. 

History of  Xishuangbanna

According to a Dai legend, Xishuangbanna was discovered several thousand years ago by hunters chasing a golden deer. In Chinese historical records, the Dai people are mentioned as long ago as the Western Han Dynasty (second century BC). During the first and second centuries AD, Dai chieftains sent tribute missions to the Chinese capital at Luoyang, but the area’s remoteness limited further ties. In the eighth century, Dali, in north central Yunnan (see section on Dali, above) became the capital of Nanzhao, an independent state ruled by the Bai minority people.

More about History of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture.

Ethnic Groups in Xishuangbanna

According to the investigation, up to date, there are mainly 13 ethnic minorities living in Xishuangbanna Dai Prefecture, including HanDai, Hani, Yi, Lahu, Bulang, Jino, Yao, Miao, Hui, Wa, Zhuang and Jingpo, which accounts for 70% of the whole population. 

Religion Culture

Dai Buddhism

Most Dai are followers of Theravada Buddhism, while some still adhere to their traditional of animist beliefs based on the notion that all things, whether animate or inanimate, possess a soul. The Blang in Xishuangbanna also believe in Theravada Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism was introduced into Dai areas of China through Burma and Thailand, more than a thousand years ago. The Dai were animists before they embraced Buddhism and their belief in natural spirits has remained alive. Most villages have temples. The Dai people exercise the religion sacrifices and activities in the temples and pagodas. The top temples in Xishuangbanna are Zongfosi Temple, Mengle Temple, Manfeilong Pagoda and Jingzhen Octagonal Pavilion.

More about Temples in Xishuangbanna.

Hani Traditional Religion

Traditional Hani beliefs were a combination of animism, polytheism, and ancestor worship, but these beliefs varied by region. People all think that there is a supernatural mysterious force dominating nature such as wind, rain, thunder, electricity, earthquake and the phenomena of human's birth, aging and death. This mysterious force has two different attributes of "god" and "ghost" (spirit), and there is a difference between good and evil. In Xishuangbanna, ancestor worship and animism were important. The Hani are polytheists and they profess a special adoration toward the spirits of their ancestors. They are used to practicing rituals to venerate to the different gods and thus to obtain their protection. Some Hani also practice Theravada Buddhism.

Lahu Traditional Religion

The traditional Lahu religion is polytheistic. The Lahu worship a variety of gods and spirits. The most important god is Exia, creator of the universe and mankind, who determines the good or bad fortunes of people. The Lahu believe in a supreme god named G'ui Sha. Many Lahu villages have a temple consecrated to this deity. Buddhist monks from Dali in the early Qing dynasty introduced Mahayana Buddhism. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, some of the Lahu converted to Catholicism and Protestantism introduced by Western missionaries.

Islam

Although the majority of Dai populations believe in Theravada Buddhism, there is still a small group of them following the Islam. This small group of Dai people is called "Paxi Dai" in Dai language, which means Dai people belonging to Hui ethnic group. They mainly live in Menghai County, if you are interested in the "Paxi Dai" culture, you can join a Muslim Tours in Xishuangbanna or visit the mosques in Xishuangbanna.

More about Mosques in Xishuangbanna.

Christianism

There are also Christians in Jinghong, including Han Chinese and other ethnic minorities. The Christian Association of Jinghong City is also founded for better and well development and management. The major church in Jinghong city is the Manyun Church located at No. 5, Manyun Village, Galan Middle Road, Jinghong City of Xishuangbanna.

Dai Architecture Culture

Dai Stilted House

Dai residential house adopts a stilted model, with high, sloping roofs and adjoining open-air balcony, which is still the norm for most Dai villages nowadays. It is usually called as bamboo house (竹楼) or Dai stilted house for its construction material and style. The upper floors of the houses are perched on thick stilts while the area under the stilts, or the ground floor, is either open or partially walled.

The ground floor area is used to shelter livestock and store food, while the upper levels are used as a living space. Its structure is perfectly suited to the weather and environment, as the Dai live in a very humid climate, and the living area is far off the ground to avoid flooding, poisonous snakes and insects such as mosquitoes. You can pay a visit to Traditional Ethnic Villages in Xishuangbanna to have a close watch.

Dai Buddhist Architecture

The Dai people follow their traditional religion as well as Theravada Buddhism, and almost every Dai village has its own small temple built in the village, with some large and popular ones in designated places. A Buddhist temple is the place where Buddhists gather to pray and engage in certain rituals. The average temple complex consists of a temple gate, a main hall, rooms for the resident monks to live in, and a special room for housing the drum. Large temple complexes will have a number of pagodas that are used as repositories for Buddhist relics. The interior and exterior of the temple buildings are often painted with panoramic murals depicting scenes from both Dai folklore and Buddhist history.  Dai style stupas, also called pagodas, which are built alone or as part of a Buddhist monastery or temple. The temples and pagodas were built and decorated in unique style. They are the dominant feature in Dai villages and differ significantly from the stupas of Han Chinese and Tibetans areas. There is a famous Dai stupa named Manfeilong Buddhist Pagoda in Mengfeilong village of Jinghong County, Xishuangbanna.

Dai Food Culture

Dai cuisine is mainly prepared by grilling, steaming, frying and boiling but some vegetables are eaten raw, particularly medicinal plants which are used to curb the effects of living in a high humidity area. Dai food features spicy and sour tastes, much like Thai cuisine, such as sauerkraut(酸菜) and sour bamboo root shreds(酸笋). Besides, barbecued fish, shrimp, and crab are also popular among the Dai people. The staple food of the Dai people is glutinous rice. They like to eat polished glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves. Rice cooked in bamboo tubes is also popular among tourists. The Dai people are especially fond of wine, and they usually make wine out of polished glutinous rice.

Read more about Xishuangbanna Dining.

Puer Tea Culture

Xishuanganna is a famous traditional commercial tea producing area in Yunnan, particularly Menghai County. The Six Puer Tea Mountains is now well known to tea lovers at home and abroad. Thriving tea industry boosted the spreading of tea culture. More and more people begin to learn about the Puer tea, and there are increasing number of tea houses in Xishuangbanna. Puer Tea Culture Tours to tea mountains and tea factories are also popular among tourists.

Customs

Dai Language

The Dai language belongs to the Zhuang-Dai language branch of the Zhuang-Dong group of Sino-Tibetan languages, which is based on the Sanskrit language of India. The written language was derived from Devanagari and differs from region to region. In the 1950s, some improvements were made to the Dai language in Xishuangbanna on the basis of the original language. The improved Dai language was called the new Dai language and the original language was called the old Dai language. The improved Dai language in Xishuangbanna, on the basis of retaining the original letter form and phonetic features, has added and deleted some letters according to the actual pronunciation, changed the tone symbols, and standardized the pronunciation of letters, the use of additional symbols and the writing rules.

Folk Art

Poems and Legends of Dai People

Poetry, stories and legends occupy an extremely important position in Dai literature and art. Dai poetry consists of ancient ballads, love songs and narrative poems. Ancient ballads can be broadly divided into labor songs, production songs, and ritual songs, blessing song, custom songs, children songs and other types. There are 550 Dai narrative poems, including creation epic, myth epic, heroic epic and tragic narrative poem, with the “Lang’e and Sangluo” narrative poem as one of the representatives. Most of the Dai folk stories are oral and a few are hand-written. The types of stories include historical legends, romantic legends, life stories, character stories, animal and plant stories, fairy tale fables, etc.

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Wall Painting

Dai people have created a painting art with distinctive national characteristics. Their paintings mainly include wall paintings, illustrations of long poems and decorative patterns. The paintings are mainly painted on the walls of Buddhist temples. They are mostly Buddhist scriptures and Buddha-born stories including "Worship of Six Elephants(六象朝拜)", "Birth Under Bodhi Tree(菩提树下诞生)" and "Nirvana(涅般)". In addition, there are a few wall paintings with narrative poems as the theme and pictures reflecting Dai people's life, production, hunting, bathing and war activities.

Songs and Dances

The traditional dances of the Dai ethnic minority mainly include Peacock Dance, Deer Dance, White Elephant Dance, Elephant-foot Drum dance, martial arts dance, etc. The Peacock Dance, Deer Dance and White Elephant Dances are performed according to the motions and movements of peacock, Goldeer and white elephant. The performers wear the special costume to simulate the movements of peacock, Goldeer and elephant.

Pattra-Leaf Scripture and Dai Literature

There are two categories of Dai literature: Buddhist scriptures and Dai literature. The Dai Pattra-leaf Literature can be broadly divided into three parts: recording, sorting and classifying as well as recomposing the ancient oral literary works of the Dai people. It also includes introducing literary works from various ethnic countries that believe in Theravada Buddhism and works created by Dai intellectuals trained by Buddhist temples.

Dai Clothes

Men wear collarless double-breasted or large-breasted small sleeve short with unlined upper garment, long trousers. In cold weather, they usually put on a felt, white cloth or blue cloth on head called “Baotou”. The custom of tattooing is very common among men. It not only shows courage, but also can exorcise evil spirits, protect oneself and decorate the body. Dai women in Xishuangbanna wear white or scarlet underwear with small waist, wide hem and various kinds of skirt.

Traditional Handicraft

There are many handicrafts made by Dai people, the famous ones among them are Dai brocade, Dai silver ornaments, traditional hand-made paper of Dai people and slow-wheel pottery, ect. You shouldn’t miss these when you travel to Xishuangbanna, either buying them or experiencing the making process.

Ethnic Festivals

Xishuangbanna festivals and activities tell you what to do during the festival tour in Xishuangbanna, and they will surely enrich your Yunnan Travel. Xishuangbanna is a place where multi-ethnic groups inhabit. The main minorities are Dai, Hani, Lahu, Yao, Hui, Yi, Miao and Zhuang, etc. Different nationalities create different cultures. Therefore, there are diverse festivals in Xishuangbanna. The most well-known ones are Water Splashing Festival of Dai people and Gatangpa Festival of Hani people.

Read more about Ethnic Festivals in Xishuangbanna.

Ethnic Towns in Xishuangbanna

There are 13 ethnic groups living in Xishuangbanna, the ethnic towns are places where the ethnic groups taking up the majority of the population. Gelanghe Hani Ethnic TownBulangshan Bulang Ethnic Town, Jinuoshan Jino Ethnic Town and Xiding Hani and Bulang Ethnic Town are recommended for your ethnic culture tour.

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Traditional Ethnic Villages in Xishuangbanna

If you are attracted to Xishuangbanna for its ethnic culture, the traditional ethnic villages are places you can't miss. Traveling to the traditional ethnic villages, you can explore the most authentic ethnic traditions which can't be seen anywhere else.

More about Traditional Ethnic Villages in Xishuangbanna.

Intangible Culture

As of May 2018, 11 projects of Xishuangbanna have been announced by the State Council as the first, second and third batch of national protection lists, 17 projects have been listed as provincial protection lists, and 62 have been listed as state protection lists. The listed projects include Water Splashing Festival, Dai Brocade, Dai Zhangha, Dai Elephant-foot Drum Dance, Pattra-Leaf Scripture, Slow-wheel Pottery,  Bulang’ s Singing with Playing Stringed Instrument, etc.

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Culture Tours Including Xishuangbanna

Tea Culture Tours

Ethnic Minority Discovery & Festival Tours

Cross-border Culture Tours 

Regional Culture in Xishuangbanna