Dai people, one of ethnic groups in China, is an ethnic minority in China with a long history and splendid culture. The Dai people mainly live in the Xishuangbanna area in Yunnan Province. Besides, there are some Dai people living in individual concentrated communities or in the churchyard of over 30 counties and cities of Yunnan, such as Jingdong, Puer, Simao, Tengchong, Longling, Shuangjiang, Ximeng, Yuanyang and Hekou. Generally speaking, the Dai ethnic group likes to live in the river basin, dam area and tropical area. The valleys and dam areas of Nu River, Lancang River, Jinsha River and Red River are mostly their ideal choice.
Important Dai festivals are the Water- Sprinkling Festival, the Door-closing Festival and the Door-opening Festival, all of which are related to Buddhism. The Water- Sprinkling Festival is the New Year of the Dai ethnic minority. On the 24th to 26th of the sixth month of the Dai calendar, people engage in traditional activities such as water-sprinkling and dragon-boating, hoping to pacify evil spirits and ensure a good harvest in the coming year.
The Door-closing and Door-opening Festivals are the two longest and grandest periods -- one in mid-September and the other in mid-June. People worship Buddha by sacrificing food, flowers, sutra, clothes and other wealth. They also take advantage of the holidays to preach Buddhist teachings and have a good time.
The Huajie Festival (Flower Street Festival) is held on the seventh day of the first lunar month to say farewell to the past year and to greet the new one. On that morning, men and women, old and young, wear flowery new clothes and bathe in the hot spring. Unmarried young people also sing to each other in an attempt to find their future lovers.
Dai people live on rice. Their typical food taste sour, spicy and fragrant. The most special food is “bamboo rice”, that Dai people cook rice in a hollow piece of bamboo, which gives you a distinctive flavor. They like to eat sour dishes which are wonderful for the digestion, because they often eat glutinous rice that is hard to digest. Due to the heat and dampness of Dai living condition, dishes made of insects, including ant, cicada, bamboo worm, fish killer and spider, are an important part of Dai food. The Dai people is fond of home-brewed drinking which does not taste very strong but sweet.
The Dai youth enjoy great freedom in finding love and the Dai lads can court Dai girls whom they love. If a lad and a lass are in love with each other, the parents of the Dai lad will ask a matchmaker to propose a marriage, which will usually meet no refusal. The main activity of the Dai wedding is “Hearts-tying Ceremony” which symbolizes a life-long devotion through symbolically tying the two hearts together and is often held in the bride’s house.
Besides, some taboos should be noticed. Dai people taboo outsiders enter their stockaded village by horse, cow or carrying a load. When going into the Dai bamboo house, visitors should take off their shoes and go softly. Visitors can not enter the master’s inner room or sit on the threshold. Whistling and trimming the fingernail in the house are also forbidden.
The Dai nationality is an ethnic minority good at singing and dancing. Their achievements in music are well-known among all the ethnic groups. Xishuangbanna, which the Dai people revere as a symbol of good fortune, happiness, beauty and kindness, is known as “the home of the peacock”. Thus the "Peacock Dance" is their most popular folk dance. This kind of dance not only derives from the imitation of peacocks’ graceful motions, but also the charming legend. Peacock Dance is graceful, elegant and lyric, which is the soul of the Dai dance. Based on various postures of the peacock, Peacock Dance concentrates the Dai people’s aesthetic interests.
Dais believe in Hinayana. When a Dai boy is about 7~8 years old, he will become a monk who will learn Dai writing, Buddhist scriptures, math, history and law. When about 15 years old, he needs to pray silently before a senior monk and read Buddhist scriptures after the senior monk. After the senior monk takes off his kasaya, he can resume his secular life. Thus, the Buddhist temple is in fact the school of the Dai boys.
The architecture of the Dai region is distinctive, known especially for the Dai-style temples, bamboo bridges and houses. The temples combine the styles of South Asian and Chinese culture and can be shaped like pavilions, thrones, bells, and so on. Bamboo houses are designed based on local conditions. Made entirely of bamboo, the houses have two floors -- downstairs for livestock and upstairs for people.
The traditional Dai clothes are mostly made of home-spun cloth by Dai women. The cloth has beautiful patterns. Men's wear is similar to that of the Han people. The upper clothes are a short shirt with buttons down the front, no collar, or shirts with short sleeves and buttons on the right. The trousers are long and wide. The Dai men like to wrap their heads with white or blue cloth.
The Dai women's clothes have a variety of styles. In the Xishuangbanna area, women often wear white, sky-blue or pink tight underwear with jewel-collared short skirt outside, with buttons on the front or on the right. The shirt has long and slim sleeves which wrap on the arms tightly. It is thin and narrow at the waist, exposing part of skin at the lower back. The lower clothes are usually a tight skirt, which is long and can even reaches the feet. This kind of clothes well reveal the beautiful figure of the Dai women. The Dai women are particular about their hair style. They wind their long hair into a bun on the top of the head, and fix it with a beautiful crescent-moon-shaped comb.