(southwestern Yunnan Province in China)

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Dai peacock dance

The Dai are a relatively large and prosperous minority that live primarily in tropical and semitropical monsoon forests and valleys along the Burmese border in Yunnan Province. They have traditionally been valley-dwelling rice cultivators and are similar to the Thai, Lao, Shan and Ahom peoples who live valleys scattered throughout Southeast Asia and the Assam area of India. The Dai have their own distinct customs, cuisine, clothing and languages.

The Dai are also known as the Baiyi, Beiyi, Boyi, Bitsu, La Sam, Mitro, Siam, Tai, Daija, Dailu, Taily, Daina, Han Baiyi, Han Dail, Shui Baiyi and Shui Dai. There are about 1.2 million Dai in China. A 1990 census counted 1,025,000 of them. They are most numerous in Xishuabgbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in southern Yunnan Province along the border with Laos. Large numbers also live in Dehing Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture.

Before 1949, the Dai were known mainly as the Baiyu, which means “white clothing.” The Dai are divided into four subgroups: 1) the Dailu or the Shui Dai, 2) the Daina or Han Dai, 3) Daija Huanyai Dai (known for their bright colored blouses); and 4) Kemu Dai. All of these groups speak a language similar to Thai and Lao. The Dailu and Daina are the largest groups.

Good Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; China Vista China Vista ; Asia Recipe Asia Recipe ; Dai Dance at China Vista China Vista ; Dai Tatooos China Vista ; Dai Song YouTube ; Elephant Foot Dance dailymotion.com

Sources on Individual Ethnic Minorities in China: (click the ethnic group you want) Ethnic China (very good site with good academic articles) ethnic-china.com ; Cultural China (site with nice photos) cultural-china.com ; China Travel chinatravel.com ; Wikipedia List of Ethnic Minorities in China Wikipedia ; Travel China Guide travelchinaguide.com ; China.org (government source) china.org.cn ; OMF international (a Christian group) omf.org ; People’s Daily (government source) peopledaily.com.cn ; Ethnic Publishing House (government source)e56.com.cn ; Paul Noll site` paulnoll.com ; China Highlights (on some groups) China Highlights

Sources on Ethnic Minorities in China: Book on Chinese Minorities stanford.edu ; Chinese Government Law on Minorities china.org.cn ; Minority Rights minorityrights.org ; Minority Travel: China Trekking (click under Minority Towns) China Trekking ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times Interactive Map nytimes.com ; Ethnic Groups in China (Chinese government site) chinaethnicgroups.com

Links in this Website: MINORITIES IN SOUTHERN CHINA--- HISTORY, RELIGION Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES IN SOUTHERN CHINA---LIFE AND CULTURE Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES IN SOUTHERN CHINA---AGRICULTURE, GOVERNMENT Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES GROUPS IN SOUTHERN CHINA---ACHANG TO HAKKA Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES GROUPS IN SOUTHERN CHINA--JING TO PUMI Factsanddetails.com/China ; MINORITIES GROUPS IN SOUTHERN CHINA---SHE TO ZUANG Factsanddetails.com/China ; BAI MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; DONG MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; DAI MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; HANI MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; JINGPO MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; LAHU MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; LISU MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; WA MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China ; YAO MINORITY Factsanddetails.com/China

Dai History

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Washing in the Mekong
The origin of the Dai and Dai-related people is matter of some debate. They have been in southwest China and Southeast Asia for some time. According to some their ancestors are mentioned in historical records dating back to the A.D. 1st century. The Dai established powerful local kingdoms such as Mong Mao and Kocambi in Dehong in the 10th and 11th centuries, the Oinaga (or Xienrun) in Xishuangbanna in the 12th century and the Lanna (or Babai Xifu) in northern Thailand in the 13th to 18th century.

The Dai have a tradition of dominating other ethnic groups such as the De’ang, Blang, Hani, Lahu, Achang and Jingpo. In some cases the Dai were powerful landlords and other tribes were like their serfs. The Dai-controlled areas were on the fringes of the Chinese empire and separated from the main population centers by rugged mountains and rain forests. Beginning in the 14th century, the Chinese approved the Dai kings and nobles and officially recognized their control over other ethnic groups.

The Dai were at the edge of the furthest southern thrusts by the Mongols, who managed to conquer much of Burma but not Vietnam. After the Ming armies drove out the Mongols in the 14th century, many Chinese moved into Yunnan and began encroaching on traditional Dai lands. The centuries that followed were dominated but conflicts and compromises involving the Dai and Han Chinese.

In 1874, a Hui Muslim named Du Wenxiu united the Bai, Naxi, Yi and Dai in a rebellion against the Qing dynasty. The rebellion was brutally put down in 1892. Missionaries arrived when the Burma Road was constructed nearby in 1937-38. In the 1950s, the Xishuabgbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture was created under the Communists.

During the Cultural Revolution many Dai people from the Yunnan Province escaped persecution by fleeing across the border to Dai villages in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Dai Buddhist temples, however, were desecrated, destroyed or turned into granaries. Recently the temples have been restored and many of them provide religious training for young monks.

Dai Language and Religion

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Dai in Chinese characters
The classification of Dai language is a matter of some debate. Some linguists classify it as a Sino-Tibetan language. Others classify it as Thai-Austronesian language. The Dai and use four written languages. They once used five non-Chinese written languages but now primarily use Chinese, Xishuangbanna Dai and Dehond Dai writing. Their script appeared in the 13th century.

The Dai are Buddhists. They recognize either the Theravada or Hinayana schools. Although Buddhism was introduced to Yunnan as early as the A.D. 7th century, it was not widely embraced by the Dai until the 16th century, when it became their official religion Families have traditionally sent their sons to become monks under the belief that doing so would help the family win merit.

The Dai were animists before they embraced Buddhism and their belief in natural spirits has remained alive. Most villages have temples. Many of their temples were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. Most were not so elaborate and were easily rebuilt.

All Dai women have Yi at the start of their name. Among the Dai people, the peacock is a holy bird. See Dance

Dai Funerals

The Dai embrace Buddhist beliefs about the afterlife and reincarnation but also believe that people became spirits after they die and these spirits are everywhere and some are good and some are malevolent.

Commoners have traditionally been buried while monks and aristocrats were cremated. Commoners that died natural deaths are buried in cemeteries in the woods near a village. People who died in accidents or as a result of violence are buried far away from everyone else because it is believed that these dead people become evil spirits.

When a person is near death, two pieces of yellow cloth and a small bamboo tablets from a temple are placed on him to assist in the admission to paradise. All work comes to a stop for it is believed that spirits dislike the sound of work. Monks perform rites at the house of the deceased. When the coffin is carried from the house the spouse of the deceased cuts a candle in half, symbolizing her separation from the dead. When the funeral is over people purify themselves by washing their hair with water and expose their skin to smoke of a burned nut.

Dai Festivals

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Water splashing festival
The Dai have their own calendar and celebrate a number of Buddhist holidays and conduct a number of Buddhist ceremonies and rituals, which involve making offerings of food and flowers to Buddha at both temples and family altars in people’s homes.

The biggest event in the Dai calendar is the Water Splashing New Year's festival in mid-April. Commemorating the day a beautiful young girl defeated the Evil King of Fire, the festival lasts for three or four days and is celebrated with people tossing water all over one another to get rid of demons are wash away the old year. People use whatever they can get their hands on---buckets, wash basins, balloons, water guns and barrels. Water can be splashed gently or thrown aggressively. Older people however should treated gently; water should only be sprinkled down the back of their necks

The festival also features dragon-boat races, swimming races, peacock dances, pedestal drum dancing, courtship dances and gaosheng launching. In the peacock dance, women wear brightly colored, eight-foot-long peacock feathers around their waists and twirl around. In the pedestal drum dance, a drum that looks like an elephant's leg is banged while dancers dance. In the courtship dances, young boys and girls stand in two lines opposite each other and throw small colored cloth bags at one another to express their love. Gaosheng are piece of bamboo filled with gun powder that are launched into the air.

At the Tan Ta festival in February or March, fledgling monks have their heads shaved at Buddhist temples and rockets and hot air balloons with lucky amulets inside are launched from special towers. People who find the amulets are supposed to have good luck for the coming year.

The Dai bang on their elephant leg drums and set off firecrackers during the Dragon Boat Festival, held on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, usually in June

Dai Courting and Sex

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Courting dance at water festival
The Dai are famous for their dating and marriage customs. Young males and females flirt and date before marriage. Premarital sex is allowed and even encouraged. Teenage girls have traditionally had a room away from their parents so the can secretly meet their lovers and signaled their interest in a young man through atonal singing or by tossing him “love bag.” If he was interested they dated and later they may became engaged to marry.

Dai Women Willingly Seeking Work as Prostitutes

left An increasing number if young women in Yunnan Province are willingly going to Thailand and Malaysia to work as prostitutes or are being ordered by their families to work in brothels in these countries because the money is good. Girls from the Dai minority are particularly sought after in Thailand because they are regarded as beautiful and their language is similar to Thai.

One 20-year-old woman in the Mekong River village of Langle told the New York Times, “If you can’t go to Thailand and you are a young woman here, what can you do? You plant and you harvest. But in Thailand and Malaysia I heard it was pretty easy to earn money so I went....All the girls would like to go, but some have to take care of their parents.”

The girls work in bars and most of the money they take in tricks goes to their pimp or brothel owner. The money they earn comes from “tips” by customers. Many make their way across the border hidden in the baggage compartment of buses and hope to get lucky and meet and marry an overseas Chinese or at least bring enough money back for a better life for themselves and their families.

Many are unable to save much even after a couple of years. Some do quite well and this is often reflected by the nice homes---with satellite television, air conditioning, generators and tile designs---in the home of their parents. Some families with several daughters live in chateau-like homes with chandeliers, leather-covered sofas, golden Buddhist altars and fancy home entertainment centers. Dai boys often don’t like the set up because the girls who return from Malaysia and Thailand come back snobby and don’t want to have anything to do with them.

Dai Marriage and Family

Marriage is a serious matter however. Marriages are usually arranged and organized by a matchmaker Bride-prices are high and grooms are required to do a three year bride service to the bride’s family. The wedding feast and service of the groom to the bride’s family are negotiated with the help of the matchmaker. Bride snatching is sometimes done to get out of paying the bride price.

Dai have traditionally married within their village or community, often marrying cousins or partners with the same surname. Couple usually live with or near the bride’s family, and sometimes the grooms, until the inherit some property of the own. Divorces are easy to arrange. In the case of the woman she moves into her family’s house and sends her husband a candle. Remarriages are common.

Weddings feature a "tie knots with threads" ceremony.

Dai Women and Children

right Women have traditionally done all the agriculture work, with the exception of heavy work done by men, and sold stuff in the markets. Old married women in the Dai tribe have no identity of their own. When they are introduced their name is not used, They are simply referred to as their husbands' wife.

The Dai are very gentle with their children, seldom beating them. In the old days boys of eight or nine years of age became monks for two or three years, and sometimes as long as ten years, and were regarded as adults after receiving a Buddhist name and mastering the Dai scripts and Buddhist scriptures. These custom was abolished in the Cultural Revolution but have made a comeback in recent years. Secular schools are often in conflict with temples because many children to go to temples to learn Dai writing while secular school focus on Chinese writing.

Dai Society

Village life revolves more around community and home village than family or kin. The Dai are very loyal to their home village and identify with it even when they move somewhere else. Names are often bestowed by landlords and even schools rather than passed down through clans or from a common ancestor.

Society was traditionally divided into aristocrats and commoners with various levels of aristocrats and commoners. Among the commoners the lowest of the low were the kachao (slaves). These classifications were abolished by the Communists. Administration was carried out through the tusi system. Tusi were hereditary rulers appointed with the approval of the Chinese. The system last for 500 years and was adapted the Chinese system in 1956.

The Dai have traditionally settled disputes among themselves with the guidance of village elders rather through the Chinese judicial system. Judgments and punishments were often made on Buddhist beliefs and scriptures.

Dai Villages and Homes

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Dai village
The Dai usually live in villages with 40 or so households. Large villages have up to 100 households. The villages are usually established along rivers or streams and often feature huge banyan trees and a delicate Buddhist temple or pagoda.

The Dai often live in large stilted bamboo houses built above the damp ground in tropical rain forest regions. Chicken and pigs are kept below the house, and a fenced garden surrounds the house. A typical house is 10-by-10 meters and two to three meters above the ground and has wooden and bamboo supports, walls and floors made of woven bamboo and a steep-pitched thatched roof supported by bamboo rafters. The house is usually divided into an inner bedroom and outer living room with a fireplace that serves as a kitchen. Those that can afford it have planked floors and tile roofs.

Traditional Dai houses have a pointed roof and a second-story veranda. Many Dai use brick and concrete to build their homes now. Some Dai houses have been influenced by the Chinese. Built at quadrangles around courtyards, they are only a meter above the ground, have mud brick walls, and thatch or tile roofs.

Dai Life

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Upper class house
The Dai spend much of their time sitting around. Many have not ventured far from their village. One elderly Dai couple told the New York Times, "Before about five years ago, we had never seen a car. Now wherever you go you can take a bus. Before that you had to walk."

Dai like chewing betel nut and drinking rice liquor. They favor glutinous (sticky) rice and have traditionally preferred a purple variety.

Medical care is provided by medicine men known as moya. They have traditionally prescribed medicinal herbs, opium paste, camphor, tiger bones, deer antler and bear gallbladders, and used bloodletting and heat application. Modern medicine is used where its available

The Dai love water. It is said they bath 10 times a day, The water splashing festival is one of the biggest events of the year. Wells often have a small shrines built over them.

Dai Tattoos, Clothes and Gold Teeth

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Dai tattoo
Dai men are often heavily tattooed with images of elephants and tigers and messages in curly Dai script. "Tattoos identify you as being Dai," one Dai man told National Geographic. Marco Polo noted the custom when he visited the area. He wrote that tattoos were applied using "five needles joined together...they prick the flesh till the blood comes, and they rub in a certain black coloring stuff."

Many people have thought the blue-black lace pattern tattoos that Dai men have on their thighs was a custom that dated back hundreds of years but one 77-year-old man told the New York Times, "During the anti-Japanese war, we all got tattoos to show that we are of the Dai people and not Han Chinese so the Japanese would not kill us." One man told the New York Times, "I got the this tattoo in 1944 because all the other people did and, besides, it looks pretty nice." A younger man said. "When we saw it on the old people, we thought it was very handsome so we got it also."

The Dai have traditionally inlaid their teeth with gold and blackened them through betel nut chewing. Children often have their teeth capped gold. Marco Polo described people with gold-sheathed teeth as well as tattoos.

Men and women wear straight sarongs. Women sometimes wear long sarongs that drag along the ground with an upper part that folds into a lose-fitting waist. One Dai group is known as the “Flower Waist Dai” after the colorful hanging belts worn by women. The women also wear a mortarboard-like head dress. Other Dai women wear short colorful blouses, long tight-fitting skirts or printed sarongs with a silver belt and towel turban or straw hat.

Dai Arts

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Dai dance
Dai literature is rich in poetry and folk tales. The poetry is sung and improvised. Famous folk tales include the story of the Peacock Princess, based an old Hindu drama. Dai mural painting and sculpture often deal with Buddhist themes.

Elephants and peacocks represent good fortune for the Dai. Peacocks are glorified in dances. Only the chief of the Dai can ride an elephant when he gets married.

Dai weavers have produced fine brocades for more than a thousand years. Today the produce beautiful cotton and silk brocades with wooden looms. They used to be famous for silver crafts. Silver jewelry remains popular among women but the stiff is bought at stores. They also make rattan and bamboo crafts and furniture and pottery and elegant water jars.

Singing and dancing are featured in festivals and religious ceremonies. Dai dance is graceful and has a wide range of delicate hand, finger and eye movements The body is bent in three curves at all times. The dances themselves deal with three main themes: nature, worship of the peacock and Hinayana Buddhism.

The peacock dance is a graceful folk dance that imitates movement, gait and flight of the bird. Peacocks are holy birds and symbols of luck and happiness. Special emphasis is placed on the tail and wing movements. In the White Peacock Dance, dancers wear white long-sleeve silk chiffon dress with a full skirt with multiple painted peacock eyes trimmed with sequins.

The Dai performed an elaborate danced call the Dance of the Hundred Animals until the 1950s. Wearing mask and costumes the dancers mimicked the movements of animals they were representing with the elegant being the central figure. Smaller scale animal dances are still performed in Dai villages.

Dai Dragon Boat Races

The Dai also enjoy dragon boat racing. Unlike the dragon boat races that the Han Chinese hold during the summer, races of the Dai take place around the same time as the Water-Splashing Festival. The largest race in the Xishuangbanna area in Yunnan Province, is held on a wide stretch of the Mekong that runs past Jinghong. Twelve villages take part. The rowers alternate by sex each year. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, April 28, 2009]

The wooden dragon boat of Mannao, one of the villages that participates in the race, has been in use for about three decades and is stored under a roof on the grounds of the village temple. It seats 70. The day of the race, villagers pray to the boat and place in its tail a lighted candle, a bottle of rice wine, a packet of cigarettes and bundles of sweet sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves....The racing tradition is evolving. More and more boats are being assembled in part with metal, which makes them more durable. Seven or eight of the dozen villages in the annual competition now have this new style of boat. [Ibid]

In Mannao, before each year’s race, the rowers practice for 10 days at the orders of the village chief. Villagers who are older than 20 and younger than 50 are all expected to row, Yi Xiangsan said. Women who have children are believed to be the strongest rowers. Women, too, are more dedicated to practice, she said: The women, if they don’t prepare well, they won’t go row. The men go row no matter what. [Ibid]

In the 2009 contest, which had only female rowers, the team from Mannao raced four times. “The reason we do it is so we can fully express the spirit and history of the Dai people,” said Yi Xiangsan, a veteran of 13 competitions. “It’s very tiring,” she added. There are some people who can’t get out of bed the next day because they ache so much.” [Ibid]

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Dai Dragon Boat Race Parties

Reporting from Mannao, an an hour’s drive from Jinghong, Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: The dragon boat came first in the procession, all 75 feet of it, carried by a tractor past the Buddhist temple and a grove of towering coconut palm trees. Then came two tractors crowded with the rowers: dozens of women dressed inwhite blouses and turquoise skirts, laughing and clapping and waving. So went another victory parade in this village nestled in the tropics of southwest China.”[Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, April 28, 2009]

After the race the are parties with singing, dancing, featsing and drinking. All the villages that had taken part in the race on April 16 would throwparties that night, but here in Mannao the rice wine would flow more freely,the women would sing louder and monks in saffron robes would shoot homemade rockets into the sky because Mannao had once again affirmed its standing as the top rowing village in the area. When you win first place, you just feel different, you feel happy, said YiXiangsan, one of the rowers. You have more face. [Ibid]

The night after the race, the women had gathered in a concrete yard with the men of the village to feast and to serenade the men. (The response of the men, apparently rooted in tradition, was to hand out money to the women.) [Ibid]

Two days after the race, Yi Xiangsan sat in her stilt home mending a dress with a sewing machine. Her team had brought back a certificate and the first-place award of about $1,300. As Yi Xiangsan spoke, her 16-year-old daughter translated from the Dai language to Mandarin Chinese, and was asked whether she looked forward to rowing once she reached her 20s. “I’m too young to think about it,” she said. The mother instantly piped up, “I definitely want her to do it.” [Ibid]

Winner Get a Bowl Originally Given by Zhou Enlai

Where dragon boat racing is concerned, a legend that began in 1961 with a visit to the area by Zhou Enlai, then the prime minister of China, has cloaked Mannao with an aura of invincibility. That year, as Zhou watched, Mannao won the annual race. Zhou, who is revered by Chinese as the humane foil to Mao Zedong, gave several Dai villages a silver bowl, locals say, but the one he handed Mannao was a little bigger, a little finer. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, April 28, 2009]

The story of the bowl has circulated among the Dai. We generally don’t lose, said Yi Ying, 36, who has rowed on the village’s women’s team in a half-dozen competitions If we lose, we wouldn’t be able to face this bowl. On the bowl are faint etchings in the Dai language that say the recipient of the bowl placed first in the dragon boat race that year. Yi Ying said Zhou presented the bowl to the two most important rowers in the boat---the one at the prow and the one at the stern. Those two rowers are now dead. [Ibid]

In 1961, Zhou arrived in the area during the Water-Splashing Festival to meet with U Nu, the prime minister of Burma, now called Myanmar. The two attended song-and-dance shows, toured a tropical plant research institute and, at 2:10 p.m. on April 14, watched Dai in traditional costumes race 19 dragon boats across the Mekong, according to a Web site run by the government of Xishuangbanna. The two prime ministers then handed out silver bowls. [Ibid]

Dai Economics and Agriculture

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Dai woman in a market
The Dai have traditionally been wet-land rice farmers. They were one of the earliest peoples to produce rice in Yunnan. As early as the A.D. 7th century, they used elephants as plow animals. Today, rice takes up 70 percent of their agricultural land

The lives of the Dai are ruled by the rhythm of the agricultural seasons. The harvest is the most important time of the year. Transplanting is usually done in May or June. In the summer the dikes are repaired and the water flow into the paddies is regulated. The harvest is usually in November or December. The Dai grow cabbage, sweet potatoes and dry land rice on mountain slopes prepared with slash and burn techniques. .

Because the Dai control a lot of land for their population size they produce only one crop a year while their Han neighbors usually produce two (one rice and one wheat or rapeseed). Unlike the Chinese, the Dai don’t use night soil (human excrement) as fertilizer and their yields are lower than the Han. During a good year Dai farmers harvest about 1,000 pounds of rice per acre. They used to rely on water buffalo but now are increasingly using tractors. Shoulder poles are still used for carrying stuff.

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Dai hammered silver jar
The Dai are mainly self sufficient farmers. They are not known as being traders or peddlers. Most trading is done between highlanders and lowlanders at markets held every four or five days. Cash crops currently grown include tea, sugar cane, tobacco, cotton, camphor, rubber and tropical fruits such as pineapples and mangos. Rubber is grown on plantations. Fishing is done with poisons and explosives mostly for consumption.

Landlords and wealthy peasants have traditionally owned much of the land. A largely feudal system remained in place until 1957, when collective agriculture was introduced. Now farmers largely operate under a contract system with the state owning the land and farmers cultivating it in return for paying taxes or turning over part of their harvest to the state.

In July 2008, two people were killed in Menglian county in Yunnan Province when 500 to 1000 Dai rubber growers armed with knives attacked police, injuring 41 officers and damaging eight police cars. Menglian county has a large minority population. The protesters were angry with a local rubber firm over the sale of their crops.

Many Dai that live near Laos and Myanmar in Xishuangbanna grow rice and have rubber plantations in the hills. Many villagers raise and tap rubber for their primary income.

Dai Minority Theme Park

The Dai Minority Park in Manzha in Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province, which hosts a Dai water-splashing festival everyday, attracts about a half million visitors each year, each shelling out $15 for an entrance ticket. Most of the tourists are Han yuppies that arrive by the busload and engaging in splashing and dunking with 100 Dai women, dressed in traditional pink, yellow and blue dresses. Also at the park are traditional Dai stilt houses, groomed palm trees and statues of elephants and 333 actual Dai household. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, February 23, 2010]

“A lot of tourists want to come see this, but it’s only a few days a year, said Zhao Li, one of the management office employees, told the New York Times. ‘so we decided to make it everyday, so everyone can experience water splashing.” Virtually all the management at the park is Han, the dominant ethnic group in China. [Ibid]

The Dai park was started by a Han businessman from Guangdong Province in the late 1990s and sold to a state-run rubber companyin 1999. About 500 residents work here and put on the daily show, including water-splashing festivals and dragon boat races, held on a nearby stretch of the Mekong River. Some tourists pay to sleep in family homes that stay true to Dai tradition. [Ibid]

Most villagers still farm rubber for their primary income. The villagers also make some money from leasing the land on which they live to Ganlanba Farm, the state-owned rubber company that operates the park. In exchange, they have to follow rules laid down by the rubber company managers---no significant changes to their stilt homes, for example. By contrast, some villagers outside the park use brick and concrete to build homes now. Residents had become dissatisfied with the annual lease price for their land, he said. The rubber company was paying the villagers $73 a year per one-sixth of an acre. Only in recent months has the company agreed to pay about 20 percent more in rent. [Ibid]

Homestay owners have tossed out some traditions to meet the needs of Han tourists. The first tourists slept with their hosts on the floor of a large room, according to Dai custom, but visitors soon complained, Ai Yo said. So homeowners built separate bedrooms. Traditionally, too, the Dai were skittish about allowing strangers to look inside their bedrooms, because of a belief that the gaze of strangers would frighten away ancestral spirits. Over all, though, he says tourism has bettered his life. I had rice paddies, and I worked morning to night and didn’t seen any money, he said while sitting outside his home one warm morning. [Ibid]

At another table outside were two Han tourists from the city of Chongqing. Zheng Jing, a big-bellied man wielding a Canon camera, was a repeat visitor. He said this park was the only place in the Dai region where he would ever consider staying. There are many villages around, and they’re all primitive, he said as a Han motorcycle club pulled up to Ai Yo’s house for lunch. It’s not suitable for us to go there. They don’t speak the Han language. You can’t have exchanges with them. [Ibid]

That kind of attitude puzzles Dai residents living right outside the park.The culture here is the same as inside the park, said Ai Yong, 32, a rubber farmer in Mannao village. You’re getting cheated inside. You come out here, you can see everything for free. [Ibid]

See Manzh, Places

Image Sources: Atlanta Chinese Dance Company, Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html , Joho maps, twip com, Nature Products, Beifan http://www.beifan.com/, Travel China

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated February 2011

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