The Bai

Name: Bai, Baizi, Baini, Minjia

Population: 1,700,000

Localization: Yunnan Province, Dali Bai Autonnomous Prefecture. Some of them in Sichuan and Guizhou provinces

Introductory Articles in Ethnic China

Introducing the Bai Nationality: The Bai is one of the minorities of Southwest China that has been in contact with the Chinese people for a longer period of time.
Benzhu religion of the Bai minority: The Bai religion is a set of syncretism beliefs with a strong local flavor, represented by the Benzhu or Local Lords religion.

Notes on the bai religion: In most of the Bai villages the religious life turns around the cult to Guanyin and their Benzhu or Local Lords cults. The cult to Guanyin is mixed with some ancestral feminine cults, as usually include rituals related with the fertility and the protection of the children.
History of the Bai Nationality: Nanzhao Kingdom was formed by an aristocratic ruling elite, mainly of Yi stratum, and a mass of people of Bai stock.
Bai Nationality Myths and Literature: Their most important myth is "Creation of the world", which three sections well differentiated: Primordial times, Creation of the world and Creation of Man.
Some Bai Nationality Festivals: Third Month Fair is the major yearly festival for many peoples who live in south China.

Shaxi: A New Model of Tourism Development.- Sam Mitchell

More introductory articles

Nama Branch of the Bai

The Nama and the Leimo: Both the Nama and the Leimo are considered two branches of the Bai minority, based in their common origin. At the end of the 18th century, the discovery of salt mines in the lands of the Nama, provoked a new migratory wave of Bai people from Dali

The celestial ox of the Nama branch: One of the most interesting beliefs of the Nama is the cult of the celestial ox. The ox is considered to have the power to prevent disasters...

Scholars Researches available in the Web

Bryan Allen.- Bai Dialect Survey- SIL International 2007

The primary goal was to determine centres of communication for selected speech varieties of Bai, that is to say, determine which lects are most widely understood. A secondary goal was to assess the current definitions of dialect boundaries by calculating lexical similarity.

Bryan Allen and Silvia Allen.- Mozzarella of the East (Cheese-making and Bai culture): Since Marco Polo omitted cheese from his travel guide to China, we will attempt in this brief article to help modern travellers to Dali.

Cai Kui, Du Juan, Dai Cong and Hu Huabin.- Cultural Relevance for Rural Community Development in China: A Case Study in Bai, Jingpo and Huayaodai Communities of Yunnan Province.

A three-year study over the Bai, Jingpo and Huayaodai communities in Yunnan Province reveals that the community development is significantly influenced in various ways by such cultural factors as the concepts of development; concepts and traditions of inter-community relationships, consumption, marriage and gender; patterns of decision-making and production, resource and income allocation; as well as the role of information dissemination systems, religion and ritual.

Mark Elvin, Darren Crook, Shen Ji , Richard Jones, and John Dearing.- The impact of clearance and irrigation on the environment in the Lake erhai catchment from the ninth to the nineteenth century.

Differences in microenvironments—defined by geology, geomorphology, and hydrology—led to major differences in the nature of the environmental problems created by economic development in different parts of the Erhai catchment in southwestern China during the premodern period

Liang Yongjia.- Fertility, Kingship and Ethnicity: the Gwer Sa La Festival of the Bai in Southwest China.

In the few ethnographies of the Bai, a minority nationality of southwest China, the Gwer Sa La festival immediately draws readers' attention for its "unseemly" customs. It is "unseemly" because men and women will meet in the wild, singing love songs and performing "eccentric" dances.

James A. Matisoff.- On the Genetic Position of Bai within Tibeto-Burman:

Different views as to the genetic affiliations of Bai: (a) that it belongs with Chinese in a branch of ST called "Sinitic", to be set off from TB proper. (b) that it is a member of the Lolo-Burmese subgroup; (c) that Baic constitutes a separate co-equal subgroup of TB that has undergone exceptionally intense Chinese influence.

Susan McCarthy.- Gods of Wealth, Temples of Prosperity: Party-State Participation in the Minority Cultural Revival

This article contrasts Chinese government support for the minority cultural revival among the Bai and Dai in Yunnan Province, with a crackdown on religious expression in Beijing. Inconsistencies in the state's behaviour in these cases might be attributed to arbitrary decision-making, or to "internal orientalism".

John McRae. Buddhism and Popular Religion of the Bai People of Yunnan Province.

In addition to their Azhali Buddhism, the Bai also propitiate local folk deities known as Benzhu, or "village lords," that function within society in ways similar to but in some ways intriguingly different from popular gods in Han Chinese communities. A village's primary Benzhu may have spouse and family (and some of the primary village Benzhu are female), and most often his (or her) identity is explained on the basis of a mythico-historical story of local significance

The historical position of the Bai.

The Bai language in Yunnan presents some interesting challenges for Chinese historical linguistics. It is sometimes considered to be a Tibeto-Burman language infiltrated by several strata of Chinese loanwords.

Qin Xu.- Some Thoughts About The Cultural Space Protected of The Raosanling of Bai Nationality in Dali.

It originally meant visiting the three public houses in the ancient times. The so-called “Sanling” referred to the three gods on the west bank of Er’hai, who were several community gods worshipped by the Bai people as well as the Buddhist deities introduced into the area.

Marsha Smith.- Constructing Identities: Tensions in Defining Naxi/Mosuo and Bai/Yi Ethnicities: some groups do receive a great deal of provincial and national subsidization to re-establish cultural educational centers and religious activities.

Wang Feng.- On the Genetic Position of the Bai Language.

Bai Zhihong.- The Discourse of Tourism Development in the Construction of a Bai Cultural and Historical City.

Books and references

The Bai in 1909 according to "Across China on Foot", by Edwin Dingle

Guanyin protects the Bai

Bai Nationality proverbs translated: pearls of popular wisdom
Basic Bibliography of the Bai Nationality

Chinese Bibliography of the Bai: Some books in Chinese about the Bai nationality.

Photo Exhibitions

Ethnic China photo exhibitions

Dali by night. Pedro Ceinos Arcones. 2011

The Old city of Dali is the main urban center of the Dali people. Centuries of Chinese influences and decades of tourism changes contributed to give this city an original air. During 2011 I visited Dali several times, at night the city transform itself giving a new atmosphere to residents and visitors. Here are some glimpses of the mystery of Dali night.

Taizi hui (Prince Festival) in Shaxi. Ji Ying, 2011

Every year, on the 8th of the second lunar month, the Bai people living in Shaxi, held the Prince Festival (Taizi hui). This is their main festival round the year. This day, in a joyful environment, nobody works. After praying in their Benzhu Temple, the children are dressed up in traditional clothes and paraded in carts or bicycles.


Bai Nationality music
A guide to download their music

Films and Video

Documentary Films about the Bai Nationality
Available dvds and vcds about the Bai Nationality
Image of the the Bai Nationality in the cinema

Art and Handicrafts

The Bai Nationality in the art


Travel to Bai Nationality lands

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