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Naxi Nationality

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Dongba Singing and Dancing of Naxi
Dongba Singing and Dancing of Naxi

With a population of 308,893 (in 2000), Naxi (also spelled Nakhi or Nahi) mainly live in concentrated communities in the Naxi Autonomous County of Lijing in the Yunnan Province, and the rest are scattered throughout the Weixi, Zhongdian, Ninglang, Deqin, Yongsheng, Heqing, Jianchuan and Lanping counties in the Yunnan Province, as well as Yanyuan, Yanbian and Muli counties in the Sichuan Province. There are also a small number living in the Mangkang County in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Most Naxi people engage in agriculture and the chief crops include rice, maize, wheat, potatoes, beans, hemp, and cotton.

Naxi women wear loose clothes with broad waistbands and sleeves, long trousers, hundred-pleat aprons, and boat-shaped embroidered shoes. Men's garments are similar to those of the Han people.

The Naxi ethnic group has its own language which belongs to the Yi branch of Zang-Mian Austronesian of the Han-Zang Phylum. The Naxi ethnic group created its own hieroglyphic 'Dongba' script more than 1,000 years ago, which is still used occasionally by some Naxi people. It is reputed to be a living fossil - the origin and development of characters in human society. Due to frequent economic and cultural exchanges with the Han people since the Yuan and Ming dynasties, they have gradually adopted Chinese as their main means of communication.

Most Naxi people believe in the Dongba religion, which is a form of Shamanism, and also in Lamaism. Sorcerers, called 'Dongba', are invited to chant scriptures at weddings, funerals, and New Year Day and other festivals.

They have created a brilliant civilization during its long history. The Dongba Scripture (Dongba Jing), a religious work written in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) in pictographic script, describes the various aspects of Naxi people during their long transition from slavery to feudalism. It is extremely important element in the study of Naxi literature, history, and religion.

Naxi architecture is elegant and simple. It has absorbed the characteristics of traditional architectural styles of Han and Tibetan, and finds its best expression in Lijiang old town. Houses built in a style of 'one courtyard with five skylights', have a crude and simple appearance and elaborate and delicate patterns in casements and doors. They demonstrate the unique architectural styles of Naxi people.

Naxi people are fond of song and dance. Using flutes, reed pipes, and wind-string as its main instruments, Naxi ancient music, as a kind of classic music, is widely popular with the Naxi ethnic group. Their ancient music combines holy tunes from Daoist and Confucians ceremonies and literary lyrics and topics from poets. Naxi ancient music is praised by the contemporary as the 'living fossil of music'.

Naxi Ancient Music
Naxi Ancient Music

The Naxi ethnic group celebrates its Torch Festival on June 24 each year and the Sanduo Festival on February 8th of every lunar year.

Sanduo Festival: Sanduo is a Naxi war god who defends the Naxi people. It is said that in ancient times a hunter discovered a strange snow stone on Jade Dragon Mountain. He carried the stone home. On his way home, he had to put the stone down for a rest because the stone was extremely heavy. When he decided to continue his trip, he found he could no longer lift the stone. Many thought it was the embodiment of a god. Later, the local people decided to build a temple to honor this supposed god. Hence, people believe that they always see a heavenly being in a white coat and a white helmet, carrying a white spear and riding a white horse. It protects the local people and their land. Naxi people consider Sanduo to be the most powerful god in its mythology and they say Sanduo was born to the year of goat. Therefore, on every goat day, a goat is sacrificed to honor this god.

 More ethnic minorities of China:        Nu          Oroqen          Ozbek         Pumi 

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