A book about the Water Culture of the Dai


Zheng Xiaoyun.- Water culture: A new way to understand the eco-civilization of the ethnic people in Yunnan. Yunnan Education Publishing House. Kunming, 2008. Bilingual Chinese-English. 160 pp.

This book gather the text of some papers presented to international conferences related to the water and indigenous peoples.

The first chapter "Water culture of the ethnic minorities in Yunnan province and protection of water resources in the cotemporary era", presented in the International Conference on Water Culture and Water Environment Protection in Kunming, begin with an overview of the importance of the water for some of the indigenous peoples of Yunnan. Here he introduces the reader to the basic relation of the water with the life and existence of some Yunnan minorities, and the way this close relation is represented in their religion, as shown in different ceremonies to honour water deities in rivers, lakes, wells and springs, and the efforts these beliefs convey to preserve water resources. The changes that happened in the water culture of the Yunnan's minorities after 1950s and the way they are challenging the basic cultures so closely linked to water is studied in the last part of this paper.

"Water culture as ethnic tradition and sustainable development of the Dai nationality", presented to the second Conference of International Water History Association, Norway, 2001. In this article, previous to the first one, the writer applies the concepts more widely developed in the first chapter, to the Dai nationality.

"The Dai nationality's water culture, water environment and healthily life" is also a wide elaboration of the previous chapter. Studying water culture of the Dai, "water and residence of the Dai people", "water and social life", "protection of water resources", the relation of the water environment and the healthy life, and the challenges that the modernization to this healthy life.

"Ethnic water civilization and irrigation in the reaches of Red River" study the importance of the water to the Hani people living there, the history of their efforts to irrigate their fields, the management of water resources and the sustainable utilization of water in the area.

The last chapter is titled: "Water-related myths of ethnic minorities in Yunnan, China: Cultural structures and implications." In this chapter the writer introduces some flood-related myths of the ethnic groups of Yunnan, with their common characteristics and their main differences. He stresses the importance of the flood as a process of destruction of the old world, where out of any order, men and gods can communicate freely, and the establishing of a new one where men and gods inhabit clearly separated realms.

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