Who are the Wa of Manhui?


The highway that stretches from Menghun to the Great Bridge, in the western region of Xishuangbanna Prefecture, presents a typical landscape of Daile communities in the area. To the left there follow a succession of Daile villages; to the right the fields in which the Daile cultivate their rice.

There are 20 or 30 villages along that highway, separated only by the occasional vegetable garden or a small mound. In each of them lives a small community of about 150 to 200 people.

Among these seemingly identical villages, there is one that is different. Their inhabitants do not recognize themselves as Dai, they don't celebrate the Dai festivals, they don't speak the Dai language, and they don't believe in Theravada Buddhism as do the Dai.

They call themselves Wa, and the neighboring populations that know them to be different, also call them Wa.

Their clothes, however, are similar to those of the Dai, as are their houses and their economic life, centered around the cultivation of rice and some vegetables.

In their external aspect, a detailed examination might perhaps reveal that their skin is slightly darker that that of the Dai, an almost imperceptible difference.

They say that they have no religion, although no one has carried out any study that can confirm their words.

They celebrate neither the Dai or Wa festivals, but those of the Han. The Chinese New Year is their most important celebration.

When asked where they come from they say:
"We came down the mountain about 20 years ago. At the top there are still three other Wa villages."

They are only 150 people. If we include the population of the three villages on the mountain, perhaps their number reaches 500.

They don't know that at some hundred kilometers away live another people that call themselves the Wa.
If at some time in the past they were related, they have now forgotten.

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