The Bai

Occupying the Er Hai Lake region for some 3,000 to 4,000 years, the Bai people are among the oldest and the second-largest minority group in Yunnan. Over 80% of the Bai, now numbering close to 1.4 million, live in Dali and the surrounding villages and countryside in what is known as the Bai Autonomous Prefecture. More than most minority groups, the Bai, who've had a long illustrious history throughout the Nanzhao and Dali kingdoms, are one of the best adapted to the Han majority. The Bai -- the "white" -- revere the color, which is regarded as noble and is the main color of their traditional dress.

The Bai celebrate many festivals, the largest of which is Sanyue Jie (Third Month Festival), which had its origins more than 1,000 years ago when Buddhist monks and adherents gathered to celebrate Guanyin's (the Goddess of Mercy) appearance to the Bai. Today's festival, which starts on the 15th day of the third lunar month (usually Apr or early May), has become more secular as the Bai and other minorities from around the area gather in the foothills of Cang Shan (Green Mountains) for 5 days and nights of singing, dancing, wrestling, horse racing, and large-scale trading of everything from Tibetan-made felt hats and silk floss to horses and medicinal herbs. Raosanling, which involves a procession to three nearby temples, is held between the 23rd and the 25th days of the fourth lunar month (usually May). Huoba Jie (the Torch Festival) is held on the 24th day of the sixth lunar month (usually July) and involves the parading of flaming torches through homes and fields. There are also fireworks and dragon boat races.


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