The Kam people 侗族 – 56 Nationalities in China


Chinese Name: 侗族

English Name: The Kam people, The Dong people

Languages: Kam language 侗语, Chinese 汉语

Total population: 2.87*106 (China mainland 2022)

Distribution: Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan, etc.

The Kam people 侗族
The Kam people 侗族

Brief introduction

The Kam people 侗族 is a minority in China. The national language is the Kam language 侗语, which belongs to the Sino-Tibetan languages 汉藏语系, and they believe in many gods. The Dong people are mainly engaged in agriculture, and agriculture is mainly based on rice cultivation and has a very high level.

The Dong people are mainly distributed in Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture 黔东南苗族侗族自治州 in Guizhou Province, Xinhuang Dong Autonomous County 新晃侗族自治县 in Hunan Province, and Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County 三江侗族自治县 in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The Kam people 侗族

The history of the Kam people

It is generally believed that the Dong people developed from the ancient Baiyue 百越 branch. The Dong nationality formed into a single ethnic group, probably in the Sui 隋 and Tang 唐 dynasties. In the Tang Dynasty, the leaders of the Dong nationality began to attach themselves to the central dynasty.

The religion of the Kam people

The Kam people believe in polytheism. Mountain gods, earth gods, water gods, well gods, tree gods, stone gods, fire gods, and thunder gods are the main objects of worship. The Dong people believe that all things have animism. They believe that after a person dies, the soul leaves the body and returns to the place where the ancestors lived, so they devoutly worship their ancestors. In addition, the Dong people also believe in Buddhism and Taoism 道教. Since the Ming 明朝 and Qing 清朝 dynasties, many temples and Taoist temples have been built in the Dong area.

The Cultures of the Kam people

Kam foods 侗族饮食

The Dong people take rice as their staple food, and also eat millet, corn, wheat, sorghum, and potatoes, but they are usually matched to adjust their taste. The meat is mainly domesticated livestock, including pigs, cattle, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, etc., especially fish. There are many varieties of vegetables, with green cabbage, radish, eggplant, cowpea, cucumber, pumpkin, winter melon, and pepper being the most common.

Wine has a very important position in the Dong diet. Most of the wine is made from glutinous rice, and every family will brew and bake it. The Dong family is hospitable, takes wine as a gift and a pleasure, and usually uses wine to relieve fatigue. Glutinous rice, oil tea, pickled sour and fish are the favorite traditional foods of the Dong people. These foods are closely related to ethnic customs and are recognized as the flavor of the Dong family.

wine 酒
wine 酒

Kam clothing 侗族服饰

In the past, the fabrics of Dong costumes were mainly self-spun, self-woven and self-dyed fabrics. Since the 1980s, woven fine cloth has been widely used, and self-woven Dong cloth has become a gift for relatives and friends.

Kam architecture 侗族建筑

The villages where the Dong people live are generally characterized by mountains and rivers. The houses in Dong villages are generally wooden buildings made of cedar trees. Such small buildings with one to two floors, and tall buildings with three to four floors. Generally, people live upstairs, while livestock are kept in captivity or forage and debris are piled downstairs.

The Drum Tower is the most distinctive building in the Dong village. There are one or two villages in general, and four to five in larger villages. The bottom of the Drum Tower is generally square, and a few are six-sided. There is a fire pit in the center and benches around it. It is the actual use part of the Drum Tower. The Drum Tower is not only the crystallization of Dong architectural art, but also the carrier of Dong culture. During Chinese New Year and festivals, welcome and see off guests at the Drum Tower.

The Drum Tower 鼓楼
The Drum Tower 鼓楼

Kam craftsmanship 侗族工艺品

There are many kinds of folk handicraft products of the Dong people, including embroidery, cross-stitching, weaving, painting, carving, paper-cutting, etc., and most of them are practical and beautiful, with distinctive features.

embroidery 刺绣
embroidery 刺绣

Dong women are good at embroidery 刺绣 and cross-stitching 十字绣. The patterns include flowers, birds, fish, insects and birds and beasts. They are embroidered on the breasts, collars, cuffs, headscarves, pillow covers, quilts, back fans, and bottoms of socks. The images are vivid and the colors are gorgeous and harmonious.

Painted paintings are commonly seen on drum towers, bridges, and the pillars of temples. Most of the paintings use the meticulous painting method, and the content is mostly taken from the historical stories of the Han nationality and the folk customs of the Kam people. Others, such as carving, paper cutting, and the weaving of bamboo, wood and rattan commonly used in daily life, are also exquisite and practical, and have high craft value.

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