The attractive “Colorful Yunnan” not only offers various splendid sightseeing for your leisure savor, but also maintains and develops 25 different ethnic minorities, which even enables it the province boasting the most types of ethnic minority groups in China. Therefore, besides the warm sunshine, slow paced life, and pleasant sceneries, you could totally have highly enjoyable moments learning and getting inspired by the interesting culture, history, folk festival, costumes, songs & dances, languages & characters, architectures, hospitable people and more aspects at their real settlements in Yunnan.
As it sings, “56 ethnic groups, 56 flowers, 56 siblings are families.” Among all the 56 ethnic groups in China, there are even 25 types in Yunnan, besides the Han group, including Yi, Bai, Hani, Dai, Zhuang, Miao, Hui, Lisu, Lahu, Wa, Naxi, Yao, Jingpo, Tibetan, Bulang, Buyi, Achang, Pumi, Mongolian, Nu, Jinuo, Deang, Shui, Manchu, and Drung (by population from large to small).
Moreover, among all the 25 ethnic groups, the 15 types only belong to Yunnan region, which are Bai, Hani, Dai, Lisu, Lahu, Wa, Naxi, Jingpo, Bulang, Pumi, Achang, Nu, Jinuo, Deang and Drung. So you could land in Yunnan and get immersed into its authentic and simple atmosphere of the diverse kinds of ethnic groups and wonder how they can maintain their features and life styles while the blooming development of the modern cities is going on in our world.
Bai Ethnic group is one the minorities enjoying very long history and prosperous culture in Yunnan Province. At present, there are about 1.56 million Bai people in Yunnan, and about 80% of them live in Dali City that is also named Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture.
Bai Group (White Group literally) people mainly admire the while color, so hats, clothes and shoes in white are mainly seen and the key feature of Bai ethnic group. In Dali, Bai men wear white tops, embroidery loincloths or belts, and blue or black pants. If he is an adult, he would wear a little exquisite embroidery bag with patterns meaning love and happiness, which is the nice product of the clever and wise girls of Bai Group. For women in Dali, they wear white or light colored tops with embroidered loincloths, blue pants and embroidered shoes. Besides, an unmarried girl usually braids her hair and ties a red string on the white kerchiefs, which better show her lovely and beautiful appearance.
Bai people are talented artists good at singing and dancing. The annual Third Month Fair during every lunar March 15th – March 21st is one of the best times to appreciate their artistic talent. This historical festival can dates back to 1,000 years ago, during which in Tang dynasty, people gathered here in Dali to hear the Buddhist sermon and formed the large fair. Experiencing some changes and development, the Third Month Fair becomes more grand and joyous. On the occasion, people wearing featured ethnic costumes would dance, sing, and enjoy many kinds of sports, cultural and entertainment activities. Another important festival for Bai people is the Rao San Ling Festival in the late Lunar April. During the 3-4 days, Bai people would dress up in their unique costumes to walk along the three temples, singing and dancing, worshipping for the King of the past Dali Kingdom, good harvest, peace of the world.
Apart from that, for your exploration of Bai Group, you can add more other interesting things into your list. Such as the Three Courses Tea, that is an ancient tea tasting art of Bai minority, over 1,000 years. The three courses, including the Bitter Tea, Sweet Tea and Aftertaste Tea, seems a little dramatic and unusual, however, it actually reflects the life theory and also carries and wish from the elders to the young generation. Also, you could ramble on the old street to appreciate the traditional old architecture of Bai features, such as white walls with colorful paintings and carvings, well decorated doors and roofs, elegant environment with flowers and trees, etc., from which you could feel the poetic life and thoughts of Bai people. Moreover, the Bandnu or Tie Dye is a praisable traditional folk handicraft made by dying cloths with vegetable dyes. Why not visit the old streets to find some good products by the hard-working and smart Bai people. >> To see more Bai Ethnic Minority Pictures
Xizhou Ancient Town
About 34 km from Dali Old Town, Xizhou Ancient Town is honored as “The Museum of Bai Architecture” with more than 100 old Bai traditional buildings. It has kept the buildings from Ming, Qing and Modern China. Explore Seven Inch Book Mansion, Yang’s Family Courtyard and Yan’s Family Courtyard. In Yang’s Family Courtyard, visitors could enjoy the Three-courses Tea of Bai Ethnic Minority.
Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town is situated at the foot of Cangshan Mountain and west of Erhai Lake. Explore leisurely in the old town by visiting temples, old courtyards, cafes, shops and bars. Enjoy some local snack while walking along the streets. Some important Bai Ethnic festivals like March Festival, Torch Festival, Bai Raosanling Festival take place in Dali Old Town. >> More about Dali Old Town.
More Attractions: Erhai Lake, Cangshan Mountain, Shaxi Old Town, Shuanglang, etc.
Naxi Minority is a particular Yunnan ethnic minority, and is influenced deeply by the Han culture, so, actually, the costume of Naxi men now looks quite similar or same as that of Han men. As the development along time, Naxi group people become skillful in poem, painting, carving, fresco, singing and dancing.
Dongba culture is one of the must-experience super highlights of Naxi ethnic minority. And the most important aspect is the Dongba Character. It is a kind of pictograph created before Tang dynasty, about over 1,000 years ago, moreover, it is the “only live pictograph in the world” at present. Apart from the around 9,000 books in China, there are about 11,000 books using Dongba Characters in many other countries globally. Apart from that, Dongba paintings and frescos are another two shining spots of Naxi people. The figures, immortals and ghosts in bright colors and various shapes drawn on the woods, bamboos, papers, and scrolls indicates the mixed religious culture of Han, Tibetan, and Naxi styles, and they are usually used on some sacrifice and ceremony occasions. However, Baisha Fresco is a top great place to appreciate the wisdom product of Naxi people.
Mosuo Minority actually could be treated as a branch of Naxi Minority in Yunnan, to some extents. To have a deeper understanding of the special Mosuo people, their special “Walking Marriage” needs talking quite necessary. At Lugu Lake and the surrounding region, the adult girl and boy would not get married usually, but give birth to their baby with only meeting at night. In such a relationship, the baby is not under responsibility by the boy, but cultivated by the family of the girl, which represents the culture of the matriarchal society at this region. And after they end the relationship, they both could continue the new “Walking Marriage” with other people. If you are really interested in such particular type of marriage, land your feet at Lugu Lake for more inspiring discovery.
Besides the awesome culture of Naxi group, their Sanduo Festival held on every lunar February 8th is one of the most vital festivals of that minority. On the day, local Naxi people dress up to join various activities like sing and dance, horse racing, spring flowers appreciating, etc. to worship for their holiest god, God Sanduo and enjoy the new warm spring. >> To see more Naxi Ethnic Minority Pictures
Lijiang Old Town
Lijiang Old Town, listed in UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, is the place to explore Naxi culture like the architecture, lifestyle, music, art and more. If you are lucky, you could see and join the old Naxi people dance at Sifang Square. The folk dance by Naxi people is performed every day. >> More about Lijiang Old Town.
Naxi Dongba Culture Museum
Dongba Culture Museum, close to Black Dragon Pool Park, shows the Dongba culture of the Naxi people. It has more than 2500 Dongba cultural relics and various other historical relics which makes the museum with the most abundant Dongba relics.
Visitors could see Baisha Mural Paintings in Baisha Village, 10 km from Lijiang Old Town. The mural painting is the reflection of different religious culture and artistic forms of Buddhism, Taoism and Naxi Dongba religion. There are 44 Baisha Frescoes. Other Attractions: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Shuhe Old Town, Lugu Lake, etc.
In Yunnan, almost all Tibetan people gather in Diqing, which has made the place Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. And now, about 120,000 people in Diqing area are Tibetan, covering over 33% of its population. Once you enter the Tibetan region in Yunnan, you will see a lot of elements in rich Tibetan religious characteristics, including the multiple monks in Tibetan Buddhist robes, white pagodas, prayer flags, and the holy resplendent monasteries, etc. The solemn and optimistic atmosphere just presents you the real situation described in the novel “Lost Horizon” by James Hilton. That is the real Shangri-La in the world and the “sun and moon in heart” with peaceful life and eternal things wonderful.
Migrating from Tibet to the plateau region in Yunnan, Tibetan minorities in Yunnan mainly keep the traditional Tibetan costumes. For a Tibetan lady, she usually wear long-sleeves robes in winter and sleeveless robes in summer, with blouses of various colors and ethnic patterns, and aprons with colorful patterns in front. For often, they wear long skirts. For a Tibetan man, he usually wears long pants and the traditional long Tibetan robes with bright colored patterns. Tibetan robes are magic. People usually take off one sleeve for dispel some heat during hot day times, so the unique style of wearing one sleeve come into form and popular among them. Besides, both Tibetan men and women like different jewelries, so colorful ornaments of silver, gold, pearl, jade, coral, agate, etc. are widely used, especially the decorations on their waist part.
Although Tibetan minority is not the local ethnic minority in Yunnan, it has a long history since 8th century and becomes a magnificent group in the whole province. During the long time, Tibetan people still maintain their traditional culture and festivals, and nearly all the dates relate to Tibetan Buddhism and convey people’s holy sincerity to their belief. During both the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival, Tibetans in Diqing enjoy the cleaning, festival shopping, worshipping to immortals, having dinner with all family members, and joining many interesting activities to send their nice wishes to others and the good future. Besides, the grand Horse Racing Festival is held from lunar May 5th. On the three days, Shangri-La is changed more charming with vigorous spring blossoms. People prepare hearty picnics, horsemen give their best performance in the competitions and shows for your new appreciate. Of course, the gifted Tibetan people would present wonderful songs and dances to ignite the jubilant atmosphere to the best. Furthermore, on lunar May 15th, the traditional Monlam Festival is celebrated at Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. So if you are visiting Shangri-La during the period, just go and enjoy the Butter Sculpture Exhibition with diversified sculptures of figures, animals, flowers, etc. in rich colors and shapes. Also, you could see people gather there for the mysterious activities to welcome the Maitreya and do some praying ceremonies.
Tibetan minority people not are only talented in art, but also do well in literature. The world famous “Epic of King Gesar” by Tibetan people is the longest epic in the world, which contains over 2 million characters in total. For its high value telling the heroic life legend and stories of Gesar, it is also regarded as the “Homer’s Epic in the Orient”. Furthermore, at present, over 100 folk artists still sing and spread the feasts of the hero Gesar in the Tibetan areas in China, so that is also the only live epic worldwide.
Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
Located 5 km from Shangri-La town, Songzanlin Monastery, also Garden Sumtseling Monastery, is the largest Tibetan Buddhism monastery in Yunnan. It is reputed as “Little Potala Palace”. It has six main structures including eight colleges. The Gedong Festival is held in the monastery annually on 29 November. >> More about Ganden Sumtseling Monastery.
Dukezong Old Town
Dukezong Old Town is the largest and best-preserved town kept Tibetan-style dwellings with a 1300-year-old history. Visitors could see authentic Tibetan dwellings, majestic prayer halls and pagodas, prayer flags and Buddhist sutras. Enjoy folk dance with local Tibetans in Sifang Square of the old Town.
Other Attractions: Pudacuo National Park, Bita Lake, Dukezong Old Town, Meili Snow Mountain, etc.
Hani group is now the second largest minority in Yunnan, which has over 1.63 million people. Settled mainly in the southern Yunnan, Yuanyang people live actively and show the world their unique ethnic features.
Hani people are artistic masters. The world famous Hani Yuanyang Rice Terraces created and developed by generations of Hani people is the best masterpiece they left for people. No matter from the every string of the rice terrace, or from the every type of color of the level, you could see their big circumspection and the deep desire of natural beauty. And through their untiring pairs of hands, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces has become the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site and also the world 3rd best rice terraces. For visitors, the rice terraces at Duoyishu, Laohuzui, Jingkou, Bada, etc. are the best places to get the proofs of the agricultural artistic talent of Hani group.
Every ethnic minority has its own special costumes. For Hani people, they favor to use navy blue homespun to make clothes. For a Hani man, he wears front opening with some embroidered geometric figures, and usually, he would wear the black or white binder on the head. If there are some festivals or dates with a girl, he would insert a beautiful feather or fresh flower on the head to show the respect to the formal occasion. And girls, they usually have different features on costumes in different places in Yunnan. In Honghe area, a girl usually wears a right opening collarless top with coins as the buttons, a pair of pants, and a cape with attire. On their costumes and headcloths, there are usually many colorized decorated borders with exquisite patterns. Usually, the costume of a girl and a man can tell the age. If a boy becomes an adult, he would change his hat into a binder, and that shows he could begin to love a girl. And a Hani girl usually nourishes her hair with lard and plaid it into a single drooping braid. If she gets an adult, she could wear a pinafore and some silver ornaments.
Hani minority also has some special and happy festivals for gathering and celebration. The Tenth Month Festival (October Festival) is the most important to Hani people. Held in the lunar October, the festival lasts for about 13 days. Since it is vital as the Chinese Lunar New Year, local ethnic people prepare multiple tasteful cuisines, put on brand new clothes, worship for the heaven, earth and ancestors, give presents to friends and relatives, and enjoy the beaming festival with family members. On the last day of the Tenth Month Festival, Hani people would hold the well-known and impressive Long Street Banquet on the grand road in their village. Substantial food and wine are placed well and the tables are connected together along the street into about 1-2 kilometers long. Local people show their best hospitality to treat the villagers and guests from other places. Another not-missing festival is the Sixth Month Festival (June Festival), which is also called “Ku Zha Zha Festival”. Celebrated in lunar June, Hani people worship the “mushroom houses” and farm tools, and make a local swing, etc. to celebrate a great harvest in advance. Also, in the big festival, all minority people would get dressed to the teeth, play on the swing, sing and dance, and enjoy the great time all night long.
Yuanyang Rice Terrace
Yuanyang Rice Terrace is the masterpiece of Hani people. Yuanyang Rice Terrace is composed of several scenic areas, including Duoyishu Rice Terrace (especially for sunrise), Bada Rice Terrace, (for sunset) Laohuzui Rice Terrace (especially for sunset) etc. The mushroom-like houses can be seen throughout the villages. The vast majority of Hani women still wear traditional clothes as their daily attire. You could see the local Hani people working in the fields, attend the local markets and and other daily activities. >> more about Laohuzui Rice Terraces, Duoyishu Rice Terraces, Bada Rice Terraces.
Other Attractions: Hani Folk Village, Mushroom-shaped Houses, etc.
Dai minority is the largest ethnic group in Yunnan at present, with a population of about 1.01 million. Usually, Dai minority is reputed as the “Ethnic Group of Water” to indicate their deep love of water, which may be reasoned by their location in the subtropical and tropical monsoon rainforest climate zone.
People love living by water, like doing cleaning, shower, shampoo, etc. What’s more apparently is the famous traditional Water-Sprinkling Festival held during mid-April every year, on the around 3 days, all the young and elder, male and female bath and dress up to join the Buddhist ceremony in the temple, and then the young men and women gather together to pour water to each other to express their good wishes of saying goodbye to the past time and welcome the new bright days.
May also be due to the climate, Dai people usually wear summer or light clothes to suit the hot weather. For a lady in Xishuangbanna, she usually wears a white or pink top with close-fitting waist part and wide lower hem, and tight skirt of any colors, which exactly stresses out their nice figure. And for a Dai minority man, he usually wears a short top without collars, and long pants. And they usually also wear white or black cloths on the head. For most men, they usually have some tattoos of tiger, lion, dragon, snack, eagle, etc. on their body, which not only shows their bravery, but also can protect themselves from those evil spirits.
Talking about Dai minority, people would also think about the graceful Dai dances, especially the most well-known and graceful Peacock Dance. Creative Dai people formed the Dai dances over 2,000 years ago. And they also imitate the gestures of the peacock, their holy bird standing for happy and auspicious things. With their love to nature and life and of course their study and efforts, they develop the Peacock Dance into such beautiful and internationally famous Chinese artistic treasure, contributing to the friendship-tie between China and the world.
Dai people love nature, and also respect nature. They build their most villages by rivers and lakes. Usually each household has a bamboo house with bamboo fence, fruit trees, and bamboos surrounding, fertile land and field embracing for their production. Usually, the styled house contains two stories, with the upper one for people to live, and the lower one for raising livestock. Though the entire house is supported by several wooden or bamboo pillars, it is steady to resist floods.
Dai Minority Park
It is one of the three top best places to enjoy the Dai ethnic minority culture and folk features. Once you enter the park, the traditional Buddhist pagodas, Dai bamboo houses, the rich atmosphere of water sprinkling event, and the beautiful Dai girls and handsome Dai boys could easily let you feel and submerge into the passionate culture and costumes of Dai minority people.
Other Attractions: Xishuangbanna Tropical Nature Reserve, Gajah Liar Valley, Manting Park, etc.
Yi minority is the 6th largest ethnic minority in China and also one of the most historical groups. Yi, meaning having ample food and clothes, solemn and historical, shows the good wish and characteristic of this unique group of people in Yunnan.
Yi people admire fire, and they believe fire can bring brightness, warm, cooked food to human and can help drive out the beasts. Therefore, fire and fire pit in the central room are especially crucial to them. And on many festivals, they would make a bonfire and show their admiration and respect to fire passionately. Particularly on the Torch Festival (or Firebrand Festival of Yi ethnic group) which is the grandest traditional festival of Yi people and celebrated from Lunar June 24th or 25th, for about 3 days. They hold ceremonious sacrifice activities, worshipping for the heaven, fire, ancestors, praying for a prosperous life and good harvest of the coming year. Also, they dress up and give good performances of singing, dances, musical instrument playing, etc. With the great jubilant atmosphere, many young boys and girls show their love to each other, so, this torch Festival is also regarded as the “Oriental Valentine’s Day”. All those activities indicates the highly respect to natural regulars and good pursuit of happy life of Yi people.
Furthermore, Yi people also adore the black tiger as the totem and ancestor of their minority group, and from that, they also show their like and admiration to the color of black. Therefore, they wear black clothes and ornaments often and are used to fumigate the new houses into black before moving in.
Yi people are so smart to have created some especially advanced treasure for good use. The 10-month Solar Calendar is the best creation of Yi minority and the important signal of the brilliant culture of human beings. Inferred to have been originated over 10,000 years ago during the far ancient time of Fu Hsi, the Yi solar calendar can be comparable with the Mayan 18 month calendar of over 6,000 years. More importantly, the result demonstrates that the civilization of China is early than those of the ancient Egypt, India and Babylon.
As the more frequently international communication, some Yi people also have their traces and even settle down in other countries. And in daily life, you may encounter with them in the US, the UK, France, and some southeaster Asian countries and regions. >> To see more Yi Ethnic Minority Pictures
Kunming Stone Forest
Stone Forest, located in Shilin Yi Autonomous County 90 km from Kunming, is a notable set of limestone formation which listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore Great & Lesser Stone Forest, Naigu Stone Forest in the scenic area. Enjoy the legend of Ashima, a beautiful girl of the Yi people. Visit Sani Village near Stone Forest and know more about Sani people, one of the branches of Yi minority. >> more about Kunming Stone Forest.
Other Attractions: Chuxiong Museum, Yi Ethnic Ancient Town, etc.
Apart from the 6 ethnic minorities in Yunnan, there are also many interesting and featured minority groups for your brief understanding and deep discovery.
You could go to see Lisu minority that is fond of singing so much and shows multiple skills at the Knifeladder-Climbing Festival, admire Zhuang minority girls good at making the famous and Zhuang brocades with outstanding colorful patterns, play with Bulang minority who treat their folk songs and dances as the indispensable nourishment for the mind, enjoy the Achang minority music that is crucial for sending affection to their love in daily life and see the Achang boys carrying a Sanyue vertical flute for pursue his beloved girl, visit Lahu minority who has no characters in history but created the over-1000-line epic called Mu Pa Mi Pa recording the various aspects of the social history of that ethnic minority, and learn more about Drung minority that is the smallest ethnic minority in Yunnan and catch the curiosity of world people by their special tattoos on the faces, especially of women. Besides, you could go to Yunnan to know more about the features of more ethnic minorities in Yunnan to feel deeper about the inclusiveness of the colorful Yunnan.
1. Yunnan Torch Festival: nearly all Yunnan ethnic minorities celebrate the Torch Festival around late Lunar June, about on 24th or 25th. Therefore, if you are visiting Yunnan during that time, be sure not to miss the joyous gathering to feel the happiness and surprise of multiple local ethnic minority people.
2. Local markets:
If you miss the special festivals of the ethnic groups in Yunnan, you could also join the local markets to have some new inspirations. In the local bazaar, ethnic group people would also wear their featured costumes to the market, selling their products or buying things they need. Besides enjoy the rich ethnic cultural atmosphere, you could also find some interesting item for a good take. You could know the holding time of some markets in Dali, Lijiang, Diqing (Shangri-La), Jianshui and Yuanyang at below for reference before setting off.
|Destination||Market||Venue||Time & Date|
|Dali||Xizhou Morning Market||Xizhou||About 10:30-13:00, every day|
|Shaping Monday Market||Jiangwei||About 10:30-13:00, Monday|
|Shaxi Friday Market||Shaxi||About 10:30-13:00, Friday|
|Lijiang||Zhongyi Market||Lijiang Old Town||Every day|
|Diqing||Shangri-La Gaoyuan Market||Shangri-La Downtown||Every day|
|Deqin Mushroom Market||Deqin||August – early October|
|Jianshui||Jianshui Farm Products Market||Jianshui||Every day|
|Yuanyang||Yuanyang Morning Market||Yuanyang old town||Every morning|
3. You could do as romans do while in Rome to enjoy the realest culture of ethnic minorities. However, please follow the local habits and folk customs to respect people and their religions there. such as in Tibetan areas, avoid wearing shorts or short skirts while visiting temples and monasteries, walk clockwise while meeting the Tibetan religious constructions, avoid touch other’s head, in Naxi group areas, avoid enter the bedrooms of elder people and females, avoid touch or move the ash in the cooking stove, in Bai minority places, avoid sit on the doorsill, avoid walk across the fire pit, in Dai minority areas, please take off the shoes outside before enter the bamboo houses of a Dai family and walk gently, also take off shoes before entering the temples or monasteries, and avoid touch the head of little monks, Buddhist statues, flags and any other Buddhist holy articles, etc.
As an experienced travel agency providing top great travel services for tourists from various countries and regions, we China Discovery are expert to take you to enjoy the best highlights and the featured ethnic culture and folk customs of the 25 ethnic minorities in Yunnan. No matter you want to discover in the major destinations like Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La, Yuanyang, etc. or some deeper wonderful regions including Xishuangbanna, Ruili, Chuxiong, Puer, Puzhehei, Bamei, and so forth, you will get a superb igniting holiday with us. Furthermore, we are willing very much to offer you our exclusive local guide and transfer services if you are interested, therefore, you could not only spare more time on the highlights on the way, but also have a much better knowledge of the colorful ethnic brilliance in Yunnan. Please feel free to ask our professional Travel Consultant if you have any questions or want to know more about the private local guide and transfer service.
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Kunming / Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La
Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La
Kunming / Yuanyang / Jianshui / Kunming / Dali / Lijiang / Shangri-La
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