Life Style of Shui Ethnic Minority

The Shuis usually dress in black and blue. Men have long gowns and black turbans, and women wear collarless blue blouses, black trousers and aprons, all of which are embroidered. On festival occasions, the females put on skirts and a variety of silver earrings, necklaces and bracelets. They usually wear their hair in buns.

Shui diets consist of rice and fish, supplemented with corn, barley, wheat and sweet potatoes. A kind of liquor made of rice goes to entertain guests or is offered to dead ancestors at sacrificial ceremonies.

A Shui house is either a one-storied affair or a two-storied building. Dwellers of two-storied houses usually live upstairs and reserve the ground floor for livestock, dogs and chickens.

Monogamy is practiced. Young people had the freedom to choose their spouses three centuries ago. Such freedom came to an end with the growth of the feudal economy, and children of rich landed families could only marry those of wealthy ones, and marriage was arranged by parents.

On wedding day, the groom’s family sent some unmarried men to escort the bride home. The bride walked all the way to her husband’s home under an umbrella and returned to her parent’s home on the same day or the day after. The bride, as a rule, did not live very often with her husband until six months after marriage. Such feudal ways as parental arrangement of children’s marriages and extortion of big payments by parents of brides from the grooms’ families have ceased to exist following the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949.

Shui funerals used to be extremely elaborate. Livestock were killed as sacrificial offerings to the dead. Singing, dancing and performance of local operas went on and on until an auspicious day was found to bury the dead. Such wasteful funerals have been simplified in the post-1949 years.

The Shuis are believers of polytheism. In former days a shaman would be employed to say prayers and animals slaughtered to be offered to evil spirits when someone fell ill or died or when something bad happened. Catholicism that came to the area in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) won very few converts.

The Shuis have a calendar of their own which takes the ninth lunar month as the beginning of a new year, and their biggest festival is the “duan” holiday which is celebrated with great pomp after the autumn harvest at the beginning of the 11th lunar month every year. Garbed in their colorful costumes, the Shuis gather in their village to watch horse races and plays, and to feast for days on end.