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  • Bai People

  • Area: DaLi
  • The Bai or Baip (Chinese: 白族; pinyin: Báizú; endonym pronounced [pɛ̀tsī]) are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. They numbered 1,858,063 as of 2000.

    The Bai People hold the white colour in high esteem and call themselves "Baipzix (Baizi)", "Baip'ho (Baihuo)", "Baip yinl (Baini)", or "Miep jiax". Baip people literarily means white people in Chinese. In 1956, of their own will they were named the Bai Nationality by Chinese Authorities.

Location and Language

Bai people live mostly in the provinces of Yunnan (Dali area), and in neighboring Guizhou (Bijie area) and Hunan (Sangzhi area) provinces. Of the 2 million Bai people, eighty percent live in concentrated communities in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province
An estimated 1,240,000 (as of 2003) of the Bai speak the Bai language in all its varieties. The tongue is either a member of the Sinitic branch or the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family or possibly part of an independent branch of this family. The Bai call themselves Baizi, Baini, or Baihuo. They have 60 other names, including the Han term Minjia (for the Bai in Dali). The Bai are the most assimilated ethnic group in China[citation needed] and therefore borrow 60% of their language from the Chinese language.[citation needed] In the Tang and Song Dynasty, the Bai created the ancient language Bowen.[citation needed] The word-formation is similar to the Japanese language. The language was reformed into Latin characters in 1957 and was revised in 1993.


Although the Bai people believe in Buddhism, they also respectively worship their village god ('Benzhu'), Nature god, the Prince of the Nanzhao regime, or even a hero of folklore. The Bai people believe in many different religions. Some of them believe in Daoism and Christianity. Most people believe in Buddhism and Benzhu Wish. Benzhu Wish is a village god that is considered to be the guardian of the village. There are a number of villages in Yunnan whose residents, based on their language and customs, would be considered Bai, if not for the fact that they are Muslim. These people are officially classified by PRC authorities as belonging to the Hui nationality, and call themselves Bai Hui ("Bai Muslims"). They usually say that their ancestors were Hui people, who fled to Bai communities after the defeat of the Panthay Rebellion in the 1860s, and have since assimilated to the Bai language and culture.

Tea Ceremony

The Bai tea ceremony, San Dao Cha 三道茶 (Three Course Tea), is most popular among the Bai in the Dali area and is a common sight at festivals and marriages. It is both a cultural ceremony and method of honouring a guest.The ceremony is often described in Mandarin as, 'Yiku, ertian, sanhuiwei' 一苦二甜三回味 (First is bitter, Second is sweet, Third brings reflection (aftertaste)).

The first tea course starts with baking the tea leaves in a clay pot over a small flame, shaking the leaves often whilst they bake. When the leaves turn slightly brown and give off a distinct fragrance heated water is added to the pot. The water should immediately begin bubbling, when the bubbling ceases a small amount of bitterly fragrant, concentrated tea remains. Due to the sound the hot water makes when it enters the clay pot the first course tea was, in previous times, also known as Lei Xiang Cha 雷响茶 (Sound of Thunder Tea).
The second course is sweet tea. Pieces of walnut kernel and roasted ru shan 乳扇 (a dairy product specific to the Dali region)are put in to a tea cup with brown sugar and other ingredients. Boiling water is added and the tea is then offered to the guest. This tea is sweet without being oily, so the guest can easily drink it.

The third tea is made by mixing honey, sichuan pepper, slices of ginger and cassia together in a china cup with hot Cangshan Xue green tea.[9] The product is a tea, which is sweet, coarse and spicy all at once. This Dali specialty has a noticeable aftertaste, which meant it was known as Hui Wei Cha 回味茶 (Reflection Tea).

The 18 procedures of the tea ceremony are governed by strict etiquette, which follows the principles of etiquette, honesty and beauty. As such, the tea ceremony is considered by some to perfectly embody the hospitable Bai people's current customs.


The Bai people, as their name would suggest, favor white clothes and decorations. Women generally wear white dresses, sleeveless jackets of red, blue or black color, embroidered belts, loose trousers, embroidered shoes of white cloth, and jewelry made of gold or silver. Women in Dali traditionally wear a white coat trimmed with a black or purple collar, loose blue trousers; embroidered shoes, silver bracelets and earrings. Unmarried women wear a single pigtail on the top of the head, while married women roll their hair. The men wear white jackets, black-collared coats, and dark loose shorts. Their headwear and costume reflect the Bai symbols:the snow, the moon, the flower, and the wind.

The modern Bai are also famous for their tie dyes and use them for different purposes from wall hangings, to table decorations to clothing.


The grandest festival of the Bai people is the Third Month Fair, held annually at the foot of Mt. Cangshan in Dali between the fifteenth and the twentieth day of the third lunar month. Originally it was religious activity to rally and pay homage, but it gradually evolved into a fair including performances of traditional sports and dance, as well as the trade of merchandise from different regions. Another important festival is the Torch Festival, held on the 25th day of the sixth lunar month to wish both health and a good harvest. On that evening, the countryside will be decorated with banners with auspicious words written upon them. Villagers will then light torches in front of their gates, then walk around the fields while holding yet more torches in order to catch pests