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The Naxi ethnic minority (2)

(People's Daily)

17:59, August 26, 2011

Art and Literature

Naxi literature is rich in form and content. Besides works by Naxi scholars and writers, there is a repository of oral folk literature. "Genesis," "The Rich Steal Oxen," "Revenge" and "Song of Elopement" are characterized by simple and fresh expressions, and distinctive national flavor. The "Dongba Scripture," a religious work, dates back to the Tang Dynasty. Written in the pictographic script, it describes the various aspects of life of the Naxi people during their long transition from slavery to feudalism. It is extremely important for the study of Naxi literature, history and religion.

The Naxis are fond of singing and dancing, especially at weddings and funerals. The most popular songs are descriptive and short. They are sung at very high pitch and with strong rhythms, to the accompaniment of simple dances. The most common musical instruments are flutes, reed pipes and wind-string instruments. The ancient musical piece, "Baishaxiyue," which dates back to the Yuan Dynasty, was rediscovered and preserved after the founding of the People¡¯s Republic of China.

Naxi architecture, sculpture and painting have reached fairly high standards. Moreover, they are mixed with the traditional styles of the Hans and Tibetans. Some famous buildings preserved in Lijiang, such as the "Dabao Palace," "Glazed Hall," "Dading Pavilion" and "Five-Phoenix Chamber," were all built during the Ming Dynasty. All the murals in these buildings have the concise and harmonious strokes of Tibetan painting, and the style of Taoist and Buddhist paintings of the Tang Dynasty. Modern Naxi painting has made fresh progress since 1949

Religion

Before 1949, most Naxi people were followers of the "Dongba" religion, which was a form of Shamanism. Sorcerers, called "Dongba," were invited to chant scriptures at weddings, funerals, the New Year Day and other festivals. Some of the Naxis were followers of Lamaism. Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity only had limited access to the Lijiang area.

Customs and Habits

Naxi women wear wide-sleeved loose gowns, with jackets and long trousers, tied with richly decorated belts at the waist. They often wear sheepskin slung over the shoulder, on which are seven stars exquisitely embroidered, with sun and moon symbols, one on each side. This reflects the Naxis' admiration for diligence -- "people start working early in the morning and do not stop until late in the evening." Women in Ninglang County wear short jackets and long skirts reaching the ground, with many folds. They wrap large black cotton turbans around their heads and wear big silver earrings. Men's garments are similar to those of the Han people.

The traditional festivals include the "Farm-Tool Fair" in January, "God of the Rain Festival" in March, and "Mule and Horse Fair" in July. There are also the Lunar New Year, the Pure Brightness Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Torch Festival -- all being the same as those of the Hans.

Cremation has been a tradition since ancient times, but in some of the Naxi areas the custom of burying the dead was adopted in the late Qing Dynasty. It was common in the past to chant scriptures at the funeral ceremony to expiate the sins of the dead.

The monogamous family under the feudal landlord economy was the main type of Naxi family in Lijiang, Weixi and Yongsheng counties before liberation. However, the man enjoyed a predominant status in the family while the woman had little say and was denied the right to inherit property. Young people's marriages were all arranged by their parents.

Among some of the Naxi people in Yongning County in Yunnan Province and Yanyuan County in Sichuan Province, there still existed remnants of a matriarchal family structure until the eve of the democratic reform after liberation. The pedigree of the family was traced back through the maternal line, and children lived with the mother. The woman was the head of the family, and the property was passed to the children through the mother, or to the nephews through the mother's brothers. Women comprised the main labor force, respected at home and in outside society.


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