Chinese Name: 傣族
English Name: The Dai people
Languages: Dai language 傣语, Chinese 汉语
Total population: 1.26*106 (China mainland 2022)
Distribution: Mainly distributed in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture
The Dai people 傣族 mainly live in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture 西双版纳傣族自治州, Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture 德宏傣族景颇族自治州, Yunnan Province. The Dai people regard peacocks and elephants as mascots, and the folk stories are rich and colourful. The Dai people like to live by the water, love to clean, bathe often, and women love to wash their hair, so they have the reputation of “the nation of water”.
The history of the Dai people
The Dai area has a long history. So far, many Neolithic 新时期 cultural sites have been discovered in the Dai inhabited areas, and hundreds of relics have been unearthed. The Dai nationality has a close historical relationship with the Zhuang 壮族 and Kam people 侗族, which are all descendants of the ancient Baiyue people 百越. The Dai inhabited areas have long maintained close ties with the central dynasty and the mainland and established political affiliation during the Eastern Han Dynasty 东汉.
The religion of the Dai people
In terms of religion, the frontier Dai people generally believe in Southern Buddhism 小乘佛教, which belongs to Theravada Buddhism 上乘佛教. At the same time, they still retain the remnants of primitive worship of ghosts and gods.
Since the 1990s, the Dai society in China has been divided into religious concepts. The elderly still carry out religious activities in accordance with religious traditions, while the religious concepts of the young generation have been significantly weakened. One of the important manifestations is that many families no longer send their children to become monks in Buddhist temples, and young and middle-aged people generally believe that reading is more important than going to temples.
The Cultures of the Dai people
The costumes of the Dai people 傣族服装
Dai clothing, men wear collarless shirts with front or big front and small sleeves, long trousers, blankets in cold weather, and mostly white or blue cloth to wrap the head. The custom of men’s tattoos is very common, which not only expresses bravery, but also can ward off evil spirits, protect the body, and decorate themselves.
Women traditionally wear narrow-sleeved shorts and tube skirts. Dai women in Mangshi City 芒市, wear light-coloured blouses, long trousers, and a small apron before marriage, and change to blouses and black skirts after marriage.
The diet of the Dai people 傣族饮食
The staple food of the Dai people is rice. Fragrant bamboo rice, also known as bamboo tube rice which is representative of the unique food of the Dai people, is made by placing glutinous rice in a fragrant bamboo tube, soaking it in water for 15 minutes, and then baking it with fire. When eating, beat the bamboo tube to make it soft, the bamboo film on the inner wall of the bamboo tube will stick to the rice, cut it in half with a knife, and the fragrant bamboo rice will come out of the bamboo, with a strong aroma, and the rice is soft and delicate.
Using moss as a dish is a unique dish of the Dai nationality. The moss eaten by the Dai people is selected from the moss on the rocks in the river in spring, preferably dark green. After harvesting, it is torn into thin slices and dried in the sun, and then worn with bamboo strips for use. The thick ones are fried in oil and the thin ones are roasted in fire when cooking. After being crispy, they are smashed into a bowl, then poured in the boiling oil, then stirred with salt, and dipped in glutinous rice balls or bacon, which is extremely delicious.
The architecture of the Dai people 傣族建筑
The dry-column-style building is a characteristic of the Dai people’s residence. The bamboo buildings of the Dai nationality in Xishuangbanna 西双版纳州 and Ruili 瑞丽 are unique. The building is nearly square, with two floors up and down. The upper floor is occupied by people, about 7 feet away from the ground. The lower floor has no walls which is used for raising livestock and stacking debris.
The art of the Dai people 傣族的艺术
The Dai nationality has traditional Dai opera. The singing and narration of Dai Opera are all in the Dai language, and the singing is mainly male and female. Most of the Dai operas are adapted from the folk stories of the Dai people. The performances are mainly based on folk songs and dances and folk martial arts. They also borrow the programs of other operas to form their own opera style.