The Wa people 佤族 – 56 Nationalities in China


Chinese Name: 佤族

English Name: The Wa people

Languages: Wa language 佤语, Chinese 汉语

Total population: 4.30*105 (China mainland 2022)

Distribution: Mainly lives in the southwest of Yunnan Province, China

The Wa people 佤族
The Wa people 佤族

Brief introduction

The Wa people 佤族 mainly live in the southwest Yunnan Province. The Wa language belongs to the Wa German branch of the Mon-Khmer languages 孟高棉语系 of the South Asian language family. The living areas of the Wa people are mostly mountainous areas, and the rich mineral resources play an important role in the economic and social development which is helpful to improve people’s living standards.

The Wa people 佤族

The history of the Wa people

Due to the backward economic and social development of the Wa ethnic group and no written language, the development of the Wa nationality can only be briefly explained based on historical legends and fragmentary records scattered in Chinese. For example, Emperor Wu 汉武帝 of the Han Dynasty 汉朝established Yizhou County (an ancient Chinese place name) in 109 BC, where a large number of ancestors of the Wa ethnic group are distributed.

The religion of the Wa people

Wa religious beliefs include primitive religion, Buddhism and Christianity. However, primitive religious belief is the most characteristic and universal belief of the Wa nationality. The believers of Buddhism and Christianity are only in small amounts in some Wa areas because they have not been introduced to the Wa people for a long time.

The Cultures of the Wa people

The architecture of the Wa people 佤族人民的建筑

The villages of the Wa ethnic group are mostly built on hillsides or small hilltops. The scale of a village can range from hundreds of households to a dozen or so, usually around 100 households. In terms of materials, there are mainly two types of bamboo-wood structures and civil-wood structures. Generally, the Wa ethnic group have the habit of helping each other when building houses, and they can usually be built on the same day.

bamboo buildings 竹楼
bamboo buildings 竹楼

The diet of the Wa people 佤族人民的饮食

The Wa people eat rice as their staple food, but also eat red rice, corn and beans. The meat is mainly domesticated livestock, such as cattle, chickens, pigs, etc. In addition, there are many varieties of vegetables, such as bamboo shoots, green vegetables, cucumbers, winter melons, peppers and wild vegetables. The Wa like to drink alcohol. They often mix cooked red rice with additives for fermentation for half a month to make water wine (A wine brewed by a specific brewing method, generally popular in ethnic minorities).

water wine 水酒
water wine 水酒

The costumes of the Wa people 佤族人民的服饰

The costumes of the Wa people vary from place to place. The traditional men’s clothing of the Wa ethnic group in Ximeng Va Autonomous County 西盟佤族自治县 is a collarless jacket, short and fat trousers, with black or red cloth wrapped around the head, and young men’s necks are mostly decorated with bamboo or rattan rings. The men’s clothing of the Wa people in Cangyuan Va Autonomous County 沧源佤族自治县 is a round-neck blouse, short and fat trousers, and a black or red cloth wrapped around the head.

Wa women in Ximeng wear black collarless shorts, straight folded skirts around the bottom, silver hoops or hoops on their heads, silver collars and multiple strings of material beads as chest ornaments, and some rattan rings around the waist and neck. They also like to wear more silver bracelets and large earrings. Cangyuan Wa women are beautiful with long hair, they wear silver or aluminium earrings and collars, they wear short jackets with round necks and narrow sleeves and a right ruffled cardigan. The chest is decorated with several rows of silver bubbles skirt.

The painting and engraving of the Wa people 佤族人民的绘雕

Most of the paintings and sculptures of the Wa are closely related to the myths, legends and religious beliefs of the Wa. Painting is generally embodied in the drawing of portraits and animal images on the wooden walls of the big house, most of which are simple and primitive; in addition to carvings on the ridge of the big house, human figures and bullheads are also be engraved.

In addition, the family of Cangyuan cliff painting 沧源岩画 is generally considered to be the Wa nationality. There are more than a thousand recognizable figures on the fifteen cliff painting points. The painting pigments are mixed with hematite powder, animal blood and gelatinous plant liquid. The composition of Cangyuan Cliff Painting is concise and the figures and animal figures are varied, reflecting the hunting, grazing, villages, war, dance and other contents of ancestors in the Cangyuan Cliff Painting area.

Cangyuan cliff painting 沧源崖画
Cangyuan cliff painting 沧源崖画

The special festivals of the Wa people 佤族人民的特殊节日

The traditional festivals created by the Wa people mainly include the New Fire Festival 新火节, the Sowing Festival 播种节 and the New Rice Festival 新米节. The New Fire Festival is the most prominent for the Wa people, which symbolizes the farewell to the old and the welcome of the new. Every year at this festival, each household in the village changes the fire of the fire pit under the command of the elders. For the Wa people, the New Fire Festival is the end of the disaster, hunger and disease, and the beginning of auspiciousness, food, clothing and health.

The Wa people (佤族)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *