Bai Minority's Village and Market
Bai people live mostly in the provinces of Yunnan (Dali area), and in neighboring Guizhou (Bijie area) and Hunan (Sangzhi area) provinces. An estimated 1,240,000 (as of 2003) of the Bai speak the Bai language in all its varieties. The Tang and Song Dynasty, the Bai created the ancient language Bowen. The language was reformed into Latin characters in 1957 and was revised in 1993.
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 Bai diet typically comprises sharp, cold and spicy flavors. Cured ham or fish with rice is a common dish; though for some groups based in mountain areas corn is a staple food.
The Bai tea ceremony, San Dao Cha (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 honoring a guest. The ceremony is often described in Mandarin as, 'Yiku, ertian, sanhuiwei' (First is bitter, Second is sweet, and Third brings aftertaste).
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.
The Bai architecture is characterized by three buildings forming a U and a fourth wall as a screen. The middle has a courtyard. The houses are usually built out of brick and wood, and the main room is in the middle (opposite the screen wall). The screen wall is built with brick and stone. The house is painted in white with black tile paintings depicting animals and other natural images. The detailing usually is made of clay sculpture, woodcarving, colored drawing, stone inscription, marble screened, and dark brink. It produces a very striking and elegant effect.