Menglian County Culture

Menglian Dai, Lahu and Va Autonomous County (referred Menglian County) is located in southwest Yunnan Province, is under the jurisdiction of Pu’er County, is the gateway to Myanmar, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, an important gateway for the provincial open ports.

Menglian Dai, Lahu and Va Autonomous County (孟连傣族拉祜族佤族自治县; pinyin: Mènglián dǎizú lāhùzú wǎzú Zìzhìxiàn) is an autonomous county under the jurisdiction of Pu’er Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China. Menglian County boders Lancang County in the east, Ximeng Va Autonomous County north, and Burma west and south. Its border line is 133.399 km. As of 2012, Menglian county administers 3 countrysides, 3 towns, an area of 1893.42 square kilometers; registered population of 127,870 people. 

Dai Cultural Identity

The Dai enjoy a rich and colorful culture, the Bai Yue culture, whose designation today is shortened to Bai Ye to distinguish it from the original anthropological culture of the ancient Bai folk. The ancient Bai Yue culture was in the forefront of social development in many respects when the Dai first began to organize themselves into communities in China. The Dai also have their own calendar, they have books in Dai script for calculating solar and lunar eclipses, and their historical documents span a rich variety of literary works, from poetry and fables to ancient stories and legends.

The Bei Ye Culture

Bei Ye Culture is a general term for the social and cultural history of the Dai people. Bai Ye cultural artifacts and traditions include original scripture etched onto the leaves of the pattra tree (a tropical plant native to the Dai homelands), Dai scripture copied onto cotton paper, and “song” (“chanting” may be the better term) books, as well as a plethora of lesser cultural traditions that are handed down generation after generation, and thus every Dai individual is a walking preserve of Dai culture. The Bei Ye Culture became known especially for the scriptures that were etched onto the leaves of the pattra tree.

Bei Ye scriptures, as indicated, are preserved on two different media: the leaf of the patta tree and paper made of cotton. The former is called “Tanlan” in the language of the Dai, while the latter is called “Bogalesha”. The Bei Ye culture has developed over time from its origins as a collection of primitive ethnic and religious practices that have been combined with the influences of neighboring cultures, primarily the Han Chinese culture, but also Indian Buddhist culture (the Dai practice a form of Buddhism that differs from the Chinese-influenced Indian Buddhism of the mainstream Han Chinese).

Though they live in separate countries, and in some cases miles apart, the Dai of China, the Lao of Laos, the Shan of Myanmar, and the Thai of Thailand all have evolved from the same ethnic origins – they all share the same Bai Ye culture particular to Southeast Asia.

The Dai Calendar

The Dai have their own calendar, which is still in use today. The Dai calendar is unusual, compared to the Han Chinese lunar calendar, in that the former incorporates elements of both the solar and the lunar calendars. Borrowing from the Han Chinese Taoist tradition, the Dai use the method of Heavenly Stems and the Terrestrial Branches to record days and years in their “hybrid” calendar (this is a reference to the Taoist sexagenary cycle, or a cyclical system of 60 combinations of the two basic cycles: the 10 Heavenly Stems and the 12 Earthly Branches). The Dai have chosen to not only employ much of the Han Chinese calendar terminology, they have also preserved the Han Chinese pronunication of this terminology.

A year is divided into twelve months in the Dai calendar, while some months are called “single” months and others are called “double” months. There are thirty days in a “single” Dai month, and twenty nine days in a “double” Dai month. A year is also composed of three seasons: the Cold Season, which runs from January to April; the Hot Season, which runs from May to August; and the Rainy Season, which runs from September to December. To further account for the irregularities of the earth’s orbit, so as to make the Dai calendar fit the actual time trajectory of the earth’s orbit, there are seven leap years to every span of nineteen years. According to ancient Dai documents, there are four epochs, termed “Saha”, in Dai history. The fourth epoch is the current one, or the “Zhujiang Saha”, which began in the year CE 647, circa, in Western calendar terms, and was announced by a Dai religious leader by the name of Payazhula.