Bai Nationality has a population of about 1,505,600, most of whom live in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in northwest Yunnan. Bais worship white which is the main color of their clothes and ornaments. Besides the March Street Festival, the Raosanling, the Torch Festival and other festivals of Hans, Bais worship Benzhu God, who is the local Guardian God, and hold different ceremonies for him. There is no wonder that Bai culture is often regarded as a folklore encyclopedia.
March Street Festival: A Bai Fair
This grand traditional festival of Bais falls on March 15th on the lunar calendar and lasts 5~10 days in Dali Ancient Town. It was a Buddhist meeting in the past. Because Dali was an important hub of transport and commerce on the Ancient Southwest Silk Route, this Buddhist meeting has developed into a trade fair and a grand festival with its own traits. Its business centers on local products like domestic animals and medicinal materials, and the horse-race is also a very popular entertainment.
Raosanling Festival: A Carnival of Bais
This is a self-entertaining folk festival during the slack season from April 24th to April 26th on the lunar calendar. During this festival tens of thousands of Bais from the villages near Er’hai Lake, walking in long lines, will pray for a good harvest and longevity. With each village as a unit, Bais will play their own musical instruments, dance happily and sing folk songs. Thus, it is called a carnival of Bais.
Shibao-Mountain Song Festival at Jianchun: A Cheerful Gathering
During the last three days of July on the lunar calendar, tens of thousands of Bais from Jianchuan and its neighboring counties will gather at Shibao Mountain and sing the songs with the same theme, that is, love. The singing in an antiphonal style can last several days and finally lead to marriage, and Baoxiang Temple is the central gathering-place.
Bai House: a Graceful Style
Bai tile-roofed houses are made of wood and earthen walls and are usually located on a plain or at the foot of a hill. They are usually arranged along the east-west axis with the main door at the northeast corner and the main room facing east. Together with the wing-rooms and the screen wall in different styles, they form a closed courtyard. The age-old and splendid Bai culture and exquisite architecture find full expression in these Bai houses.
"Pinching the Bride" and “Snatching the Pillow”: An Interesting Bai Marriage Custom
A Bai marriage ceremony usually lasts three days. On the wedding day, led by the matchmaker, the bridegroom will go to receive the bride accompanied by Suola-trumpet players. Upon arriving at the bridegroom’s house, the guests will bless the bride by “pinching” her while the bride will run into the bridal chamber in cheers and laughter. Soon after this, the ceremony will begin with the bride and the bridegroom bowing to Heaven and Earth as well as their parents. In some places, upon entering the bridal chamber, the bride and the bridegroom will compete for the pillow. It is said that the one who has sat on the pillow first will become the master of the family. Then, they will drink the “Cross-cupped Wine” to show their mutual love and respect and their wish for a life-long devotion.
Three-Course Tea: A Graceful Bai Etiquette
Bais like drinking baked tea and are particular about their tea set. The best cups for the guests are snow-white and delicate. The well-known Three-Course Tea, which is a graceful Bai etiquette for the distinguished guests, goes as follows: the first course is pure baked tea which tastes bitter, the second is added with sliced walnuts, baked milk-curd and brown sugar which tastes sweet, and the third has honey and several Chinese peppers added which gives meaningful afterthoughts.
Dali Marble: A Revelation of Some Traits of Nature
The marble produced at Cang Mountain in Dali is of high quality. These marble stones have natural and wonderful patterns. Thus, a good marble article is like an impressive and charming picture. Some people have classified marble stones into ten groups according to their natural patterns which reveal different natural landscapes, while other people have divided them into four kinds, each indicating astronomical phenomena, different seasons, mountains, rivers, plants, birds, animals, celestials and fairies respectively.
Bai Bandhnu: An Old Printing and Dyeing Technique
The hand-made Bai bandhnu has a long history, which was introduced from central China and is still popular in Zhoucheng and Weishan. Cotton cloth, fabrics of cotton and linen and Chinese indigo are used as the materials. The usual patterns are bee, butterfly, bird, insect and plum blossom as well as other plants and animals. The white patterns against the blue background look imposing and graceful, which are very popular with domestic and overseas tourists and are regarded as a fashionable decorative art.