For our trip to Baishuitai in Yunnan region of China, we drove through some remote areas in the Shangri-La county. And during this drive, we saw some of the most gorgeous untouched mountainous landscapes and got a glimpse into the lives of local Naxi tribe that lives around these parts. And I am sharing more on them and their culture via a photo essay below-
Like India, China too has numerous ethnic groups and tribes. The Naxi tribe is an ethnic group that inhabits the northwestern part of Yunnan Province and the southwestern part of Sichuan Province in China. Originally from the nomadic clan of Qing people in North Western China, they later migrated south toward Tibet and usually live around fertile river land. In Yunnan they live around the Yangtze lands.
The Naxi language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family though in the past they used a pictographic language called ‘Dongba’ and ‘Geba’.
They are an ethnic minority with a population of roughly around 320,000 people. The name Naxi is derived from two words – Na means “senior and honored” and Xi means “people”.
They live on farming, cattle breeding and making handicrafts – embroidery, painting, carvings etc.
The Naxi people live in houses like cabins (made of wood or stone) and the interiors normally have three rooms with doors (for indoors and outdoors) in each room. Most houses are two stories high and with a courtyard in the center. The locals build these houses facing either South or the East as they believe that this will bring in good luck that comes from these directions. Some of these existing houses are really ancient and preserved.
They have a matriarchal society where a woman is the head of the family and leaves her inheritance to her female descendants. They also do most of the household and farm work and also make key family decisions. Talk about all rounders 🙂
The Naxis celebrate a Torch Festival on June 24 each year and the Sanduo Festival on February 8th of every lunar year.
According to the Naxi legends, Sanduo is a Naxi war-god who protects them. It is said that long ago a hunter discovered a strange snow stone on the Jade Dragon Mountain and decided to take it home. On his way, he sat down to rest and put the stone down too but when he got up to resume his journey, the stone felt extremely heavy and didn’t move. People thought the stone was the embodiment of a god and decided to build a temple in its honor. Hence, people believe that they see a heavenly being in a white coat and a white helmet, carrying a white spear and riding a white horse here. It protects the Naxis and their land. Naxi people consider Sanduo to be the most powerful god in its mythology and they say Sanduo was born in the year of the goat. Therefore, on every goat day, a goat is sacrificed to honor the Sanduo.
The Naxis believe and practice the Dongba religion, a mixed form of Shamanism, and Lamaism. Sorcerers, called ‘Dongba’ meaning “wise man”, are invited to chant scriptures at weddings, funerals, and other important festivals.
There are quite a few other tribes in this region too. So the next time you are around here, do take some time and visit these local tribes to better understand their culture and customs and also see these gorgeous untouched landscapes all around.