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The Bai ( ; endonym ) are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of Chinamarker. They numbered 1,858,063 as of 2000.

The Bai People hold the white colour in high esteem and call themselves "Baizi", "Baini" or "Baihuo", which means white people. In 1956, of their own will they were named the Bai Nationality by Chinese Authorities.


Bai Architecture
Bai people live mostly in the provinces of Yunnanmarker (Dalimarker area), and in neighboring Guizhoumarker (Bijiemarker area) and Hunanmarker (Sangzhi area) provinces. Of the 2 million Bai people, eighty percent live in concentrated communities in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecturemarker in Yunnan Province.


An estimated 1,240,000 (as of 2003) of the Bai speak the Bai language in all its varieties. The tongue is either a member of the Sinitic branch or the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family or possibly part of an independent branch of this family.


A tea-serving ceremonial ground.
Although the Bai people believe in Buddhism, they also respectively worship their village god ('Benzhu'), Nature god, the Prince of the Nanzhao regime, or even a hero of folklore.

There are a number of villages in Yunnan whose residents, based on their language and customs, would be considered Bai, if not for the fact that they are Muslim. These people are officially classified by PRC authorities as belonging to the Hui nationality, and call themselves Bai Hui ("Bai Muslims"). They usually say that their ancestors were Hui people, who fled to Bai communities after the defeat of the Panthay Rebellion in the 1860s, and have since assimilated to the Bai language and culture.


For the diet, they prefer sharp, cold and spicy flavor, so they prefer cured ham or fish eaten with rice or flour; though some people in the mountains eat corn as a staple food.


The Bai people favor white clothes and decorations. White in Chinese is pronounced 'Bai', so maybe this is where their name derives from. Women in Dali traditionally wear a white coat trimmed with a black or purple collar, blue loose trousers; embroider shoes, silver bracelets and ear rings.


The grandest festival of the Bai people is the March 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.

Cormorant fishing

Cormorant fishing is a way of using cormorant birds for fishing and is practiced among the Bai fishermen.

Notable Bai

See also


  1. Ethnic Groups -
  2. (1st edition appeared in 1991)

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