Wa ethnic people in SW China's Yunnan march toward prosperity through culture promotion

(People's Daily Online) 16:49, February 02, 2023

The people of the Wa ethnic group in southwest China's Yunnan Province have given themselves better lives by passing on their traditional ethnic culture.

Photo shows an aerial view of the county seat of Ximeng Wa autonomous county in Pu'er city, southwest China's Yunnan Province. (People's Daily Online/Hu Zunhui)

Yan Tao, a man born in 1990 in Talang village, Ximeng Wa autonomous county in Pu'er city, Yunnan, left his hometown and went to east China's Hangzhou to join a performing arts company after graduating from middle school.

People of the Wa ethnic group are talented at singing and dancing, according to Yan. Before leaving the village, Yan would often sing and dance together with his fellow villagers, which was when the seeds of ethnic culture began to take root in his mind.

"Before I was 16, the furthest place I had been was the county seat of Ximeng. I was filled with curiosity about the outside world," said Yan.

However, just after joining the performing arts company, he encountered many difficulties, such as mastering professional dance moves.

"I love dancing. But then I found that learning it systematically was not easy. I spent hours practicing difficult dance moves and cried every time because the training was really intensive," Yan recalled.

However, his efforts eventually paid off. After several years of practice, Yan was recognized by his company as a professional performer.

"In 2012, I joined a performing arts company in Hunan Province and established a dance team specializing in promoting the traditional culture of the Wa ethnic group," said Yan. In 2019, he was promoted to supervisor by the company.

Photo shows a stage photo of an opera show about the Wa ethnic group. (People's Daily Online/Hu Zunhui)

As he had always wanted to help his villagers find jobs and promote the culture of the Wa ethnic group, Yan returned to his village at the end of 2019 and recruited more than 20 local villagers to join his dance team.

Yan said the local government helped him by providing dance training for the villagers, which laid a solid foundation for their future development. After the training, the more than 20 villagers joined Yan's performing arts company, giving each member a monthly base salary of 5,500 yuan ($818).

"The county government also offered us financial support and gave us transportation allowances and incentives as we would work outside the county, which helped us a lot," Yan said.

Before 2019, the government of the Ximeng Wa autonomous county had released a series of policies to promote labor transfer in rural areas, and saw this as a task of great importance.

Photo shows a stage photo of an opera show about the Wa ethnic group. (People's Daily Online/Hu Zunhui)

"The care and support from the government injected energy into us," said Yan.

Nowadays, Yan and his fellow villagers are living prosperous lives as a result of their hard work and perseverance.

"We've not only broadened our horizons, but also mastered many skills required to become prosperous. I hope that I can contribute to the development of my hometown," the man said.

The cultural industry in the village, including its music, dance, food and clothes, are distinctive elements of the Wa ethnic group that hold great appeal for tourists, Yan said.

"It was the culture of the Wa ethnic group that we depended on to build a career over the past years," said Yan, adding that in the New Year, his biggest wish is to continue to promote the Wa culture.

(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Du Mingming)


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