Dali – Yunnan, China

By P Chong                                                                                  16 March 2011

. . . where the ancient flourishes

right in modern mist!

Aerial View of Dali

The Traditional Dragon Dance

Hu Jintao, President of China, advocates “living harmoniously” and there’s no better place where the slogan is deeply rooted in the daily lives of the people. In Dali – an ancient town in Yunnan China, there’s a good cultural mix of different ethnic groupsHan Chinese, Bai & Naxi minorities and many others, all living in peace & harmony.

Ancient Dali lies within the ancient walls where the old way of life still flourishes, while modern Dali sprawls & spreads outside the protective walls – north, south, east or west.

Picturesque Erhai Lake Dominates the Region

. . . diversity in unity & unity in diversity.

Yunnan is noted for its very high level of ethnic diversity. It has the highest number of ethnic groups among all provinces and autonomous regions in China. Among the country’s fifty-six recognised ethnic groups, twenty-five are found in Yunnan. Some 38% of the province’s population are members of minorities, including the Yi, , Hani, Tai, Dai, Miao, Lisu, Hui, Naxi, Lahu, Va, Nakhi, Yao, Tibetan, Jingpo, Blang, Pumi, Nu, Achang, Jinuo, Mongolian, Derung, Manchu, Shui, and Buyei. All of them are educated in Mandarin & speak Mandarin fluently.

The current popular tune of “Darling, darling . . . darling na” (not sure of the song title & I am just going by the sound) flowed through the narrow cobble-stone streets as we wandered around. I learned that the soothing song was sung by a Naxi girl who first rendered it to be popular in the local tavern of Dali. My brother Mike bought me a copy of the CD seeing that I was so captivated by the tune.

I guess the beautiful catchy tune took the hearts of most visitors & tourists, who were mainly in their twenties or thirties, males & females, most of whom were armed with their hand-phones & digital cameras. There was only a handful of foreigners & oldies.

Young people reflect the rise of Chinese middle class & their mobility to travel & enjoy the pleasures of life long denied them. We found a couple of Australian tourists resting themselves by the shop front and upon chatting with them found that they had difficulties because of the language problem. Speaking & understanding Mandarin is necessary. Everybody speaks Mandarin. However, Mandarin or no Mandarin, people were generally friendly & helpful . . . smiling with a cheerful heart.

Dali against its snow-capped mountain. A street scene in a more outlying village of Dali.

More pictures:

Scenic Erhai Lake

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China’s Rich Cultural Heritage

By P Chong                                                                                                       1 March 2011

China’s 56 Ethnic Minorities

Multiculturalism as practised in China is unique & unprecedented. It reflects diversity in unity & unity in diversity. It means on one hand the pride of conservation & presentation and on the other acceptance & respect by one & all.

In the atmosphere of peace & harmonious living, the minority groups are separate and yet integrated. As a matter of fact, with their fluency in Mandarin, the national language of China, any visitor would say that they are well assimilated and fully integrated in the society mainstream.

China’s ancient operas, performing arts, and other cultural legacies now have legal protections. The top legislature, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, passed a new law on Friday 25 February 2011 to protect the country’s intangible cultural heritage.

China's Ethnic Minorities

Sun Anmin, member of NPC Standing Committee, said, “China’s thriving culture industry in the past few decades is in a large part owed to the increased tapping of intangible cultural heritage. As such, I believe it is important to emphasize rational exploitation, and protection. So we can have both effective use and protection at the same time.”

With an ancient history and diverse culture, China has a wealth of intangible cultural heritage. Just what new forms they will take and how they will develop are in the hands who love them – both Chinese and foreigners. Xie Zheng, CCTV reporter, said, “The passage of the new law is a milestone in China’s protection of its intangible cultural heritage. After all, a people without heritage fails its cultural identity, and the world without cultural diversity will be one that is too dull.”

Distribution of the Ethnic Minorities

China is a big and united family made up of 56 ethnic groups. Geographically speaking, they are distributed in different parts of China with the resulting difficulty of experiencing each ethnic group‘s architecture, their festivals and tasting their snacks during one of your visits.

Bai Minority

But the China Folk Cultural Village, lying at the Overseas Chinese Town, Shenzhen, will help solve this problem. It is the first spot in China where you can learn of the folk cultures of China. More than 200,000 square meters have

Miao Artist Song Zuying

Dai or Tai Minority

been made available to accommodate 24 peculiar cottages making up the cultural village to welcome visitors & tourists.

In the village, you will see the distinctive architecture of ethnic groups and can join in their brilliant festivals. Buying handicrafts or tasting local snacks is another way to experience the China Folk Culture Village.

Officially recognized, the following are the most numerous of the ethnic groups in mainland China:

  1. Han 漢族 1,230,117,207
  2. Zhuang 壯族 16,178,811
  3. Man 滿族 10,682,263
  4. Hui 回族 9,816,802
  5. Miao 苗族 8,940,116
  6. Uyghur 維吾爾族 8,399,393
  7. Tujia 土家族 8,028,133
  8. Yi 彝族 7,762,286
  9. Mongo 蒙古族 5,813,947
  1. Zang 藏族 5t,416,021 Source: Wikipedia (This page was last modified on 16 February 2011 at 07:40).

In our tour of Yunnan, we had the chance of meeting the Naxi 納西族 (308,839) and also the Bai 白族 (1,858,063). Many of the Naxi girls that we met are largely involved in driving taxis or running food stalls. Many are pretty but are conscious of their dark complexion. They speak perfect Mandarin and one that we met in the silk embroidery factory even has a college education and speaks good English.

The Naxi Ethnic Minority

Foreigners would love to marry these Naxis, for by tradition, they are the ones who work while the men are privileged to play. All responsibilities of life fall strictly upon the women. Naxi men are known to play & sing all day, drink, smoke & make merry . . . as though there’s no tomorrow!

Naxi women are traditionally forbidden to marry outside their cultural group. Modern educated Naxi girls however would rebel and much prefer to marry a Han man any time.

Miao MinorityTibetan Ethnic Minority