In Xishuangbanna, the Dai people refer to their land as “bazi”, meaning tranquil and beautiful. Their homes are in a lush subtropical area near river basins with exceptionally fertile soil. One of the least-known but most flavorful culinary treasures in China, their food is similar to Thai food in that it combines sour, spicy, salty and sweet flavors but with its own distinctive style.
Axi Fire Festival
The Axi, one of the 27 branches of Yi celebrate the Axi Fire Festival to honor Mu Deng, the man who brought them fire. Legend has it that once when the naked Axi were hunting, heavy rains came down, sending them to shelter under an old tree. An old wizard, Mu Deng, appeared, rubbed some dry wood together and started a fire. The Axi were no longer cold and learned how to cook food.
The Song of our Ethics
The Sani live in and around Stone Forest, and are a subgroup of the Yi. Their lives are as colorful as their embroidered clothing, and they treasure song and dance above wealth and success. Their legend of Ashima is sung from generation to generation and is an inspiration for Sani women today who refer to it as "the song of our ethics.”
Ashima was a young Sani girl engaged to be married to (her cousin) Ahei. Azhi, the son of the village leader, tried to force her to marry him. Azhi unleashed a trio of tigers to kill Ahei who killed the tigers with arrows and escaped unscathed.
But when Ashima and Ahei were playing by a river, Azhi generated a flood and Ashima drowned and turned into river stones. Her words are echoed through the forest: "I will never disappear even as the sun and cloud disappear, my soul and my sound will exist till the end of time." Sani people say that Ashima’s suffering is their suffering. Great grandfather Lung Yun's calligraphy is prominently carved in red above the entrance.
Yi Costume Festival
Long ago, there was a young Yi couple in love. In pursuit of the girl, a jealous Devil King tried to kill the boy. An old man taught the young girl to crow like a rooster to call out the sun and drive the Devil away. The girl saved her boyfriend and the villagers now show their gratitude by wearing cockscomb hats that bring luck, safety and happiness to their people.
8 1 Village
Unmarried women of 8 1 village wear black turbans; married women wear red coned hats. Long ago, when traversing through the forest, the leader of the group would wear a red plantain flower on the top of their head.
Wa Hair Swinging Dance
The Wa people regard the wooden drum as a divine tool that has exceptional power and is the symbol of existence and prosperity. Wa women uninhibitedly swing their long black, shiny hair to the beat of the drums. Their beat is slow and fast, representing anger and sadness, anxiety and happiness.
Tai Yang Village
In Tai Yang (Sun) Village, on the border of Laos, the 17 yr old bride said "I have to do it now cause I'm getting too old." Her bridesmaids were 14, 16 and 26. The 16 yr old was getting married 2 days later. The ceremony lasted 2 days - the 1st day is spent at the Bride's home, the 2nd day she entered the Groom's home - finalizing the marriage.
Return to the Land of Dieties
Naxi Dongba writing consists of pictographic glyphs which can only be interpreted by a "Dongba" priest. Dongba religion is based on the belief that both man and nature are half-brothers born of different mothers and the same father. Dongba scripture places an emphasis on this relationship between man and nature where man is punished for exploitative activities to nature. The painting “The Road to Heaven” depicts the journey where souls of the departed are tortured in hell before being reincarnated as man again, and finally joining the land of Deities.
Tibetan Mastiffs are believed to have originated in the Himalayan Mountains and were coveted for their ability to protect people and property. In Tibet they are called Do-Khyi, meaning “tied dogs” because they are primarily used as guardian dogs who are able to dutifully protect against intruders and can fight off wolves and leopards.
Bamei, Cave in the Forest
Bamei means 'cave in the forest' in Zhuang language. Tao Yuanming, the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) poet, described Bamei as an isolated Peach Blossom Valley where people lived a simple, pastoral life. For centuries, Chinese people merely regarded this valley as imaginary. To the Chinese, the peach blossom symbolizes luck, love and longevity, and to some- immortality.
Lisu Hot Springs Bath Gathering
Every Spring Festival, the Lisu people gather at the Hot Springs by the Nujiang River in NW Yunnan. By taking baths and washing off dirt with sacred spring water, people hope for forthcoming auspiciousness.
Hani Long Table Dragon Banquet
Scattered throughout Yunnan, Vietnam and Laos, over 90% of the Hani live in Yunnan. For their October New Year, the Hani people of Yuanyang celebrate with a Long Table Dragon Banquet where 3,000 tables are laid end to end along the street like the back of a long dragon.
Dulong WomanOnly about 4600 Dulong people reside near the Dulong River in NW Yunnan, along the borders of Tibet and Burma. Using bamboo needles and ink made out of ashes from the bottoms of pans, girls got their tattoos at puberty and each clan had its own set of designs. The origin is not clear, but some claim it was to make them unattractive to powerful neighboring tribes (Tibetans to the North, and Lisu to the east) who enslaved the Dulong and went after their women. Dulong woman believe that their tattoos resemble butterflies because the souls of the dead were said to turn into butterflies. As of 2009, there were only 40 tattooed Dulong women left.
Harmony of Nature and Human Will
The Hani people have cultivated the terraces of Ailao Mountain since the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD). With a subtropical climate and an advanced irrigation system, the rice fields are almost self-sustaining as evaporated water is trapped within the surrounding forest forming a sea of clouds that replenishes the fields. The terraces represent a harmony of nature and human will.
Naxi War God Offering
"Sanduo" is a spiritual war God created by the Naxi who have lived for generations at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. During war, his troops assisted the Naxi; during fire, he created snow out of fog; and in outbreaks of pestilence, he created wind. Thus people addressed his as "Sanduo" meaning the patron god of the Lijiang Flatland.
Buyi Multicolored Rice
Water wheels carry water from the Duoyi River to the rice fields of the Buyi. During celebrations, the Buyi steam glutionous rice dyed from colorful plants around them, and serve it in banana leaves with honey or cane sugar.
Zhongdian was renamed in 2001 after the fictional land of Shangri-La in James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon. Songzanlin Monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan. Tibetan Buddhists place prayer flags along nearby mountain ridges where the wind spreads and the sun fades their prayers and sacred mantras into the countryside. The colors represent the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space.