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Bai

Bai

ETHNONYMS: Baihuo, Bai Man, Baini, Baizi, Baizu, Bo, Bozi, Cuan, Minjia, Sou


Orientation

Identification. The name "Bai," meaning "white" in Chinese, seems to have been first used to refer to inhabitants of the southwest border region of China, the Baiman, as distinguished from the Wuman (wu meaning "black") by the white sheepskins they wore. The Bai refer to themselves as "Bozi," "Baini," "Baihuo," or "Baizi." The Chinese used the term "Minjia" from the fourteenth to twentieth centuries. The Chinese government now refers to the Bai as the "Baizu."

Location. Traditionally the Bai inhabited the region of present-day China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. The majority of Bai now live in the Dali Baizu Autonomous Region of Yunnan. Smaller Bai groups are found in the Bijie District of Guizhou Province, Liangshan in Sichuan, and Sangzhi County in Hunan Province.

Demography. In 1982 the total Bai population numbered 1,131,124, of whom 857,410 lived in the Dali region. The 1990 census gives a total count of 1,594,827.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Bai language belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese Branch of Sino-Tibetan. The Bai have no written language, so Chinese characters have been used with Bai pronunciation. Today many Bai speak Chinese.


History and Cultural Relations

According to Chinese historical material, when the Qin armies unified China in 221 b.c. they captured the southwestern kingdom of the Bo, taking the Bo as slaves. Starting in 182 b.c. Chinese migration into the Bo lands of the present-day Sichuan-Yunnan border area caused most of the Bo to move south into Yunnan. In Chinese records, during the third century a.d. the name "Sou" replaced the name "Bo." The Sou are said to have rebelled against the Chinese state of Shu, and the famous Chinese strategist Zhuge Liang was called in to mediate. At this time, the Sou-occupied area was the political, economic, and cultural center of the southwest. In later historical records, the name "Sou" also disappeared, to be replaced by "Cuan." After AD. 339 this group became the most powerful one in the region and developed what is now known as the Dian culture. In the eighth century the southern (nan ) zhao (zhaoji in Chinese means "to convene," "to summon a council") gathered the region's six other zhao to unify the Erhai District of Yunnan and establish the Nanzhao Kingdom. There is some historical debate over whether the leaders of the Nanzhao State were Bai or Yi people. In a.d. 902, weakened by continuing battles and slave rebellions, the kingdom collapsed. Following a briet period of chaos, in AD. 937 a Bai of Dali named Duan Siping united the Eastern Dian region's thirty-seven tribes and established the Dali Kingdom. For nearly 300 years the kingdom maintained close political and economic relations with the Chinese Song dynasty. In a.d. 1253 the Mongols invaded, bringing Muslim soldiers who settled in the region. The armies of the Chinese Ming dynasty (1368-1644) eliminated Mongol power in 1381, bringing many Chinese military settlers who eventually intermarried with the Bai. In 1874, a Hui Muslim named Du Wenxiu united the Bai, Naxi, Yi, Dai, Jingpo, and Chinese in a rebellion against the Qing dynasty. The rebellion was brutally suppressed eighteen years later. The construction of the Burma Road (19371938) brought missionaries and increased foreign trade to the region. In 1949 the Chinese Communist party defeated the Nationalists who had occupied the area, and in November 1956 it established the Dali Baizu Autonomous Region, which is part of the People's Republic of China.

Settlements

The Bai have traditionally lived clustered in villages on the Dali plain and along the shores of Erhai Lake. Some Bai also live in mountain areas. On the plains, homes tend to be two-story, U-shaped structures surrounding a courtyard, built of mud bricks with tile roofs. A family might live on the second floor and use the ground floor as a stable, or they might live on the first floor and use the upper floor for storage. Mountain homes are usually constructed of wood or bamboo with thatched roofs.


Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Traditionally, the Bai economy depended on plow agriculture, with rice and wheat as the main crops on the plains and with maize and buckwheat as the mountain cultigens. Until it was outlawed, opium was an important cash crop from the first half of the nineteenth century to the late 1930s. Present cash crops include tea, sugarcane, rape, tobacco, cotton, peanuts, flax, walnuts, Chinese chestnuts, pears, oranges, and tangerines. Pigs are raised for consumption, and domesticated animals include oxen, water buffalo, horses, mules, sheep, and donkeys. Since 1949, the Dali area has been developed for light industry and now boasts 565 local industries, including electrical, mechanical, chemical, paper, textile, leather, salt, vegetable-oil processing, and mining concerns. Tourism is a growing industry in the area.

Industrial Arts. Lacquerware from Dali was famous up through the time of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The Bai were renowned for carved wooden furniture, and in the eleventh and twelfth centuries all Chinese palace carpenters were Bai. Today fine marble work and blue and white tie-dyed cloth persist as crafts for sale to tourists.

Trade. The Dali area is the meeting point for the roads leading south to Myanmar (Burma) and northwest to Tibet. Previously muleteers and porters conducted trade by carting goods over the mountains. The completion of the Burma Road in 1938 facilitated transport, but as vehicles were scarce, human and animal labor were still widely used. Prior to 1949, the Bai imported foreign products and exported marble, pig bristles, leather goods, minerals, and herbal medicines. Trade declined in the first three decades and immediately following 1949, but it has increased again since the implementation of Chinese economic reforms in 1979. Recent years have seen the revival of trade fairs, the largest of these being the Third Month Market (linked with the Guanyin Festival) and the Fish Pool Fair. The former is held in Dali during the week of the fifteenth day of the third lunar month and attracts merchants and traders from all over the southwest, most notably Tibetan medicine merchants and horse traders. The Fish Pool Fair usually occurs in the first week of the eighth lunar month on the northern shore of Erhai Lake. Unlike the Third Month Market, this fair is geared to local Bai trade in carved wooden furniture, silver jewelry, marble, and embroidery.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, men and women did the same work in the fields, except that men did the heavy plowing. Both married and single women were responsible for marketing. Bai women were noted for their strength and ability to carry heavy loads long distances. Women and girls mostly worshiped publicly at temple festivals and fairs, while men engaged in private ancestor worship at home.

Land Tenure. Prior to 1949, 10 percent of the population, namely landlords and wealthy peasants, held 60-80 percent of the land. The remaining 90 percent of the population held only 20-40 percent of the land, and 70 percent of these people were either poor peasants or hired laborers. After 1949, all land became state property, and the area followed the shifting guidelines of Chinese agricultural policy, which emphasized collectivization. Since 1979 policy has moved away from collective labor to individual and family labor.

Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. Traditionally, the nuclear, small extended family and the village, not the lineage, were the most important kin groups for the Bai. People living in the same village, no matter what their family name, all worshiped a common ancestor said to be the founder of the village.

Kinship Terminology. Surnames and the term for lineage, as well as the system of patrilineal descent, seem to have been imposed on the Bai through Chinese influence.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. In the seventeenth to nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, probably through Chinese influence, the practice of arranged marriage by parents became common. Children were betrothed at infancy and wed in their late teens. The exchange of bride-price and dowry depended on the class and locality of the bride and groom's families. The Bai did not practice surname exogamy, and both paternal and maternal cousins were allowed to marry. Marriage was monogamous except for a few wealthy landowners. Postmarital residence might be neolocal or patrilocal depending on how many sons a family had. Sons could choose to establish a new household upon marriage, or they could live together in a small extended family until the parents died. If a couple had no sons, they could adopt a baby boy from a relative or stranger, or they could have an adult son-in-law move in to look after them. The ease of obtaining a divorce seemed to depend on the locality. In towns greatly influenced by Chinese codes and values, divorce was difficult to obtain, and a widow who remarried was considered disgraceful. In more remote areas, divorce was more easily obtained, and a widow could remarry freely.

Domestic Unit. Nuclear or small extended families were the norm. Elderly parents generally lived with the youngest son.

Inheritance. There was no primogeniture or ultimogeniture. Inheritance was divided among the sons, adopted sons, or sons-in-law, although the latter two would have to change their family names in order to be eligible.

Socialization. Bai parents were traditionally very affectionate toward their children, and they made them many toys. Girls and boys played together and worked in the fields together. Prior to 1949 parents tried to send all their children to school to study Chinese reading and writing; however, educated boys were more numerous than girls. Since 1949 elementary education has been compulsory for all children.


Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. During the time of the Nanzhao Kingdom, the society was composed of a king, nobles, free people, commoners, tribespeople, and slaves. Before 1949, the society was stratified into landless peasants, peasants, artisans, wealthy peasants who lived in the city, merchants, and landlords. Village elders were highly respected. Women had a relatively equal status with men. After the revolution, the poorer classes were glorified, and the wealthy were attacked. With the 1979 economic reforms, there has been a reemergence of more stratified socioeconomic classes.

Political Organization. After the fall of the Dali Kingdom in the mid-thirteenth century, the Bai came under the traditional Chinese civil-service system of counties headed by a magistrate who was responsible for the collection of taxes and the administration of justice. Two decades before the Communist Revolution, the Nationalist government introduced a modified bao jia, or "family guarantee," system, under which sections called ju were composed of three to four villages, which in turn were composed of five family units. Each section headman would be an elder of one of the villages and had extensive authority based on the cooperation of the villagers. After 1949 the Bai came under the new forms of Chinese government administration.

Social Control. Despite the existence of a Chinese judicial system, the Bai traditionally preferred to solve problems among themselves or by going to a village elder. Both civil and criminal cases were most often settled out of court. Punishment varied depending on the relationship of the persons involved. For example, the murderer of a relative would face execution, whereas the murderer of a stranger would face imprisonment. Rape and adultery were severely punished.

Conflict. In the past, generational conflict was common if grown children refused to marry their prearranged partner. The parties involved solved such a problem through a face-saving system whereby the young couple would elope and be chased by the girl's father and other male relatives, who never intended to catch them. After the couple's escape, there would be a prolonged period of negotiations between the young people's parents. Usually the matter would be settled peaceably. Disputes over water rights were also common and were generally settled by a village elder.


Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Traditionally, the Bai believed in abstract heavenly spirits and natural spirits. Later, these beliefs came to be mixed with beliefs in tutelary spirits, Buddhism, and Daoism. Buddhism appeared in the Dali area during the ninth century and remained a strong force up until 1949. The three famous white pagodas that still stand in Dali were once part of a large Buddhist temple. Christian missionaries made some inroads in the twentieth century, but converts were generally regarded with suspicion and sometimes ostracized by their families. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) most temples were destroyed and religious practices forbidden. Since the early 1980s, the Chinese government has taken a more lenient view of religion, and the people have rebuilt many of the temples and revived many Daoist associations. However, religious practice is now confined mainly to the older generations.


Religious Practitioners. The mix of religious beliefs spawned a mélange of part-time specialists trained in dancing and singing for religious ceremonies, semiprofessional Buddhist masters, and formal Buddhist monks and nuns. Associations for worshipers of Daoist deities also existed. The influence of all of these practitioners has declined under Communist rule.


Ceremonies. The largest religious event was the Guanyin Festival (linked with the Third Month Market). The festival commemorated the legendary seventh-century visitation of the Bodhisattva Guanyin to Mount Cangshan and drew many worshipers as well as traders and merchants from afar. In addition, every village, at least once a year, held a ceremony and sacrifices for the feast day of the local gods. Other festivals included the Butterfly Festival, Rao San Ling, and the Torch Festival.


Arts. Singing and dancing have been an important part of Bai religious ceremonies and festivals. The people often produced dramas influenced by Buddhist themes on temple stages. Some temples still hold performances today, although religious themes are no longer prevalent.

Medicine. The Bai generally thought that sickness was tied to having offended a tutelary spirit or to having been possessed by a malevolent spirit. Religious semispecialists or shamans, using medicinal herbs, songs, and chants, worked as doctors and exorcists and received food and money as payment.

Death and Afterlife. The Bai believed that worship of ancestors protected the living by linking them to dead spirits. Buddhism engendered a belief in the afterlife and reincarnation. The Bai also believed strongly in poltergeists. Originally the Bai cremated their dead, but under Chinese influence they came to bury the dead in quite elaborate marble tombs. At present the government encourages cremation in order to conserve land.

Bibliography

Fitzgerald, Charles P. (1941). The Tower of Five GloriesA Study of the Minchia of Tali. London: Cresset Press.


Jiang Chunfang, Shi Lei, Li Shijie, et al., eds. (1986). Zhongguo da baike quanshu (Encyclopedia Sinica). Vol. 20, Minzu (Nationalities). Beijing: Encyclopedia Sinica Press.


Mackerras, Colin (1988). "Aspects of Bai CultureChange and Continuity in a Yunnan Nationality." Modern China 14(1).

BETH E. NOTAR

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Bai

Bai

PRONUNCIATION: BYE
ALTERNATE NAMES: Bo
LOCATION: China
POPULATION: 1.6 million
LANGUAGE: Bai; Chinese
RELIGION: Polytheism; some combinations of Buddhism and indigenous beliefs
RELATED ARTICLES: Vol. 3: China and Her National Minorities

INTRODUCTION

The ancestors of the Bai people were called Bo and were descendants of the ancient Qiang (Tibeto-Burman group), who lived around present-day Sichuan more than 2,000 years ago. After unifying China, the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) planned to carve out a way to India through the area inhabited by the Bo. For this reason the Bo gradually migrated to Yunnan and joined the other Bo already living there. In 109 BC, the King of Yunnan pledged allegiance to the Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220), placing the Bo under the latter's authority. From the 1st century AD the Bo oscillated between submission and rebellion. Gradually the Chinese character that was in ancient times pronounced "Bo" came to be pronounced "Bai," both pronunciations meaning "white." This is an example of the different pronunciations of the same character in north (Bai) and south (Bo) China.

In the 8th century, following the unification of six small principalities, the powerful kingdom of Nanzhao was established with Dali (in northwest Yunnan) as its capital and ruled Yunnan for 247 years. Ten of the 13 successive kings received titles granted by the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Later, Nanzhao was replaced by Dali, which acknowledged allegiance to the Song Dynasty (960–1279) and ruled Yunnan for more than 300 years. In 1253, the Mongolian aristocrats conquered Dali. Before long, the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) set up a system appointing Bai headmen under the jurisdiction of the former royal court of the Dali Kingdom. In the following centuries, hundreds of thousands of Chinese, Mongolians, and Manchus moved from the central provinces into the areas of Yunnan inhabited by the Bai. There was much cross-cultural exchange and intermarriage. Chinese culture exerted a strong influence on the Bai.

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

Today over 80% of the Bai live in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture. There are small communities dispersed in other counties of the Yunnan Province. Bai are also found in Sichuan and Hunan. Two rivers, Lancang and Nu, flow south through the Dali prefecture, which is located in the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. The deep river valleys are thickly forested. The snowcapped Cang Mountain and limpid Er'hai Lake in the suburbs of Dali inspired many beautiful legends of the Bai people. The Bai population was 1.86 million in 2000.

LANGUAGE

Bai is classified as belonging to the Sino-Tibetan family in the Tibeto-Burman group of languages. In 1990, it was estimated that 900,000 people speak Bai. Scholars still debate the exact place of Bai as a branch of the Tibeto-Burman group. There are three Bai dialects. Bai is a self-given name. Most of the Bai speak Chinese.

FOLKLORE

Bai myths are usually long and complex. Most of them are related to daily life, love, and religious beliefs. A famous one, called "Husband-expecting Cloud" was transformed into a dance drama and a Bai opera. In short, a princess of Nanzhao Kingdom fell in love with a young hunter. They escaped to Cang Mountain and married in a cavern. During a snowstorm, the hunter left the cavern to find a suit of thick clothes for his chilled wife. Unfortunately, he was discovered by a Buddhist priest of the royal court. The priest turned the hunter into a stone mule, which was sunk into the Er'hai Lake. Dying from cold and hunger, the princess transformed herself into a cloud. If it suddenly appeared around the peak of Cang Mountain in winter, the stone mule in the deep water always cried in response. Then a strong gale blew abruptly, the water split, and the stone mule appeared in an awe-inspiring manner.

RELIGION

The Bai are polytheistic, believing in many gods. Each village enshrines and worships a certain god as the master and protector of the village. The villagers carve an idol made of wood or clay and put it in the temple. Most of the masters are famous personages of the kingdoms of Nanzhao or Dali. Some are part of their respective myths, while others are gods related to agriculture. After the 9th century, Buddhism became prevalent in areas around Er'hai Lake. The three Buddhist temple pagodas at the foot of Cang Mountain date from the Tang Dynasty. The stone relief sculpture of the Buddha and of the Kings of Nanzhao in the grottoes of Shibao Mountain are a combination of Buddhism and of Bai traditional belief in the Master God.

The Bai revere conch and fish. The Bai believe in the Fish God: whenever a fisherman catches a big fish, he puts it back in the water at once and prays while burning incense.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The Spring Festival extends from the last day of the old year to January 15 (lunar calendar; Western calendar, from February 6 to March 6) during the slack season. Each family cleans the house and prepares fine dishes for the holidays. A great variety of recreational activities are held, such as the Lion Dance, the Dragon Lantern Festival, walking on stilts, flying kites, playing the "tossing the silk ball" game, etc. Some villages devote most of the holiday to "meeting the Master."

The Third Month Fair is a grand festival of the Bai, held March 15 to 21 (lunar calendar; Western calendar, from April 6–12 to May 4–10). It has a history of more than 1,000 years. On the occasion, the endless array of native products and the dazzling articles of daily use are exhibited on the streets and squares. The number of participants may reach hundreds of thousands, including various neighboring nationalities.

The "Memorial Ceremony for the Dead" in February, the "Torch Festival," the "Rao San Ling," and the "Yu Tan Hui" are also distinctive and colorful festivals celebrated in the areas inhabited by the Bai.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Gifts are important on the birth of a child, the engagement of two young people, and the birthday of a senior person. On these occasions, money or items that come in sixes are always welcome. For instance, a gift of 160 yuan (Chinese currency) will be gladly received, while 500 yuan might be refused. The reason for the prominence of the number "six" is that the Bai are descendants of six tribes. When, in the past, their king presented gifts to the Emperor of imperial Tang, each tribe prepared a gift of its own—altogether six. The gifts from the Emperor in return were also six and each tribe took one gift as its own. Moreover, in Bai language, the pronunciation of "six" is the same as that of "enough" or "handsome salary," so six is an auspicious number.

A rite of "seeing off the soul" is held after the death of a senior person. In the eyes of the Bai, the soul will come back to its native house again and again. Therefore, on the first, third, seventh, thirtieth, and hundredth day after death, family, relatives, and friends perform the rite of "seeing off the soul." On the occasion, the family will receive relatives or neighbors to dinner. It is believed that after the last ritual performance, the soul will definitely go to the "other side" to unite with the ancestors.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

In addition to public festivals, every happy event of the family or clan is an occasion to pay a congratulatory visit. Gifts are absolutely necessary. When they are about to leave, guests usually receive a gift in return from the host.

Young people used to express their feelings for the opposite sex by blowing on a tree leaf. The addressee tried to understand the meaning from the melody and the tune. This is a rather indirect method of courtship as compared with the antiphonal singing prevalent among neighboring ethnic groups.

LIVING CONDITIONS

Most Bai houses are two-story, made of wood and bricks (or adobes), usually roofed with tiles. The walls on two sides are often higher than the roof; this is to keep fire from spreading. The house is oriented toward the east. The family lives downstairs; the central room is for daily life and receptions. Rooms upstairs are for storage. In some areas, wooden houses on stilts still exist; in that case, pigs and chickens are kept on the ground floor, while the family lives on the second floor. Bai dwelling in mountainous areas have thatched-roof cottages; the family sleeps in the firepool room. Bai inhabiting the plains and valleys have a much higher standard of living than mountain-dwellers. Bai cities and towns have flourished since 1949. Many endemic (sometimes epidemic) diseases, such as schistosomiasis (a parasitic disease carried by certain types of snails) have been practically eliminated after years of treatment.

FAMILY LIFE

Bai family is patrilineal (traced through the fathers), with two generations usually living under the same roof. Parents live with the youngest son, because the older ones leave the house after marriage. A son-in-law is allowed to live with his wife's parents if they lack a son. Childless families are allowed to adopt a child from brothers of the same clan. In those cases, the names of the son-in-law and the adopted son should be changed to the family's surname; otherwise, they do not have the right of inheritance. Bai families are monogamous, but there exist cases of polygamy. The position of women is socially lower than that of men. People with the same surname or of the same clan are not allowed to marry. The marriage of cousins, however, is prevalent. Arranged marriage is common, although "love marriages" are increasing. Betrothal gifts are usually expensive.

CLOTHING

Men wear multi-buttoned Chinese-style upper garments in white or blue, sometimes with a vest, and long white trousers. They wrap their heads with white or blue cloth and carry a decorated bag over the back of the shoulder. Most women wear white tops with a black or purple velvet vest and loose trousers in blue. A short apron with embroidered ribbons is fastened to the waist. A string of silver ornaments is hung on the right of the garment. Unmarried girls have a braid on their back or coil the braid on the top of the head. Married women comb their hair into a bun, which they wrap with an embroidered or printed scarf with the tassels hung over one side of the head. Some of them put together the four angles of the scarf on the back of the head, then fix them with string. They are fond of embroidered shoes. Their costumes for special occasions are not much different from their daily dress. Various ornaments are put on during the festival.

FOOD

Rice and flour are the staple foods of the Bai. Mountain dwellers live on corn and buckwheat. All have a liking for sour, cool, and spicy dishes, as well as for a medium roast pork, which is shredded and seasoned. They are good at making salted fish, ham, and snail sauce. Baked tea is a distinctly favorite dish. As a rule, they take three meals a day.

EDUCATION

There are primary schools, middle schools (junior and senior), and universities in Bai villages, counties, and cities respectively. Illiteracy, however, is still prevalent in the rural areas. The intensive manual labor in the fields often requires the participation of the children. As a result, many girls are usually obliged to drop out of primary or middle school. The overall cultural and educational level of the Bai is higher than the average for national minorities, but it is still below the average for the whole country.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

The "Bai Melody" is a kind of national folk song. Although slightly different in various Bai districts, it is always a poem with five or seven characters to a line, accompanied by three stringed instruments (sometimes the opening bars are accompanied by a woodwind instrument). It is part of every important Bai festival.

Bai opera, as a combination of music, song, and dance, developed under the influence of Chinese models. The famous Lion Dance, however, was borrowed from the Bai by the Chinese during the Tang Dynasty. The works of Bai poets of Nanzhao Kingdom were included in the great Chinese poetry anthology called Quan Tang Shi (Complete poetry of the Tang).

WORK

Bai economy rests principally on rice culture, complemented by barley, wheat, millet, and beans. Fruit growing, stock raising, and fishing on Lake Er'hai provide important sideline economic activities. Bai workers, with heavy slabs of marble on their backs, descend from a quarry in the Cang Mountain, just as their ancestors did 1,000 years ago; but, the processing of the slabs is now carried out with mechanical devices by Bai factory workers. The fine texture and natural designs have made Dali marble famous for more than 2,000 years and continues to inspire craftsmen in carving ingenious landscape scenes. Dali horses and knives carved by Bai artists are also much sought after by connoisseurs.

SPORTS

"Tossing the silk ball" and "rattle stick dance" are traditional popular Bai sports and spectator sports as well. The game of "tossing the silk ball" is usually played on festivals. The ball is actually a small bag padded with cottonseed or rice husk, ½ to 1 lb in weight, and variable in size. Two teams, one of boys and one of girls, oppose each other, but are separated by a mat shelter. A member of one team tosses the ball over the top of the mat shelter; the ball should be caught by a member of the receiving team. If the ball is missed, a negative mark will be recorded. This game offers the occasion for boys and girls to meet and get acquainted socially.

The rattle stick is a 3 ft bamboo stick, thicker than one's thumb. There are nine openings on the shaft, each of which is pierced by a bamboo nail. Two-holed copper coins are hung on each bamboo nail. Each player taps his or her own shoulders, arms, knees, and feet with the rattle stick while dancing, jumping, marching, or squatting, but without letting the coins drop from the stick. The one who loses the least coins is the winner.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

The Bai people have complete access to movies, television, and other recreational equipment in their cities and towns, especially in Dali. More traditional forms of entertainment are mainly singing and dancing. Singing contests are held around Mount Wudiao in the fall of each year. Torches are kindled. The rising and falling sounds of songs fill the night like waves. Young boys and girls in Jianchuan, north of Dali, sing all night long in antiphonal style, accompanied by three-string instruments. When the busy season of transplanting rice shoots is finished, the Bai people have a festive dinner party in the temple of the Master. They dress as fishermen, woodcutters, peasants and scholars, participate in the procession of the "rattling stick dance," and tour their village for fun.

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

The artistic sense of the Bai is exemplified in their lacquerware and wood carvings, for which they are famous. More than 1,000 years ago, their lacquerware entered China proper. The lacquerers chosen by the central government of the Yuan and Ming dynasties were all Bai artists. The Bai also excel at wood carving, as may be seen in the exquisite birds, flowers, and personages carved on the doors and windows of Jizushan Buddhist Monastery. The continuation of their skills in all kinds of wood carving can be also found in present-day private house decorations.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

The economic cleavage of Bai society is quite prominent. On the one hand, urban Bai have a markedly improved living standard, especially in recent decades; on the other hand, mountain-dwellers still live in abject poverty. There is no easy solution to this problem, which is not specific to the Bai, but it is shared by every nationality whose people are divided into urbanites, valley dwellers, and mountain dwellers.

GENDER ISSUES

The Chinese constitution states that women have equal rights with men in all areas of life, and most legislation is gender neutral. However, there are continued reports of discrimination, sexual harassment, wage discrepancies, and other gender related problems. The gap in educational level between women and men is narrowing with women making up 47.1% of college students in 2005, but only 32.6% of doctoral students. China has strict family planning laws, and it is illegal for women to marry before 20 years of age (22 for men) and it is illegal for single women to give birth. The Family Planning Bureau can require women to take periodic pregnancy tests, and enforce laws that often leave women with no real options other than abortion or sterilization. Prostitution and the sex trade is a significant problem in China involving between 1.7 and five million women. It involved organized crime, businessmen, the police and government workers, and as a result prosecution against prostitution has limited success. In 2002, the nation removed homosexuality from its official list of mental illnesses, and though it is still a taboo topic, homosexuality is increasingly accepted, especially in large, international cities.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chiao, Chien, Nicholas Tapp, and Kam-yin Ho, ed. "Special Issue on Ethnic Groups in China." New Asia Bulletin no 8 (1989).

Dreyer, June Teufel. China's Forty Millions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.

Eberhard, Wolfram. China's Minorities: Yesterday and Today. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1982.

Heberer, Thomas. China and Its National Minorities: Autonomy or Assimilation? Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1989.

Lebar, Frank, et al. Ethnic Groups of Mainland Southeast Asia. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files Press, 1964.

Lemoine, Jacques. "Les Pai." In Ethnologie régionale II (Encyclopédie de la Pléiade). Paris: Gallimard, 1978.

Ma Yin, ed. China's Minority Nationalities. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1989.

Miller, Lucien, ed. South of the Clouds: Tales from Yunnan. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.

Ramsey, S. Robert. The Languages of China. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Wiens, Harold J. Han Chinese Expansion in South China. New Haven: The Shoestring Press, 1967.

—by C. Le Blanc

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