Naxi Ethnic Minority
The Naxi ethnic minority has
a population of 277,800, most of whom live in concentrated
communities in the Lijiang Naxi Autonomous County in
Yunnan Province, the rest being scattered in Weixi,
Zhongdian, Ninglang, Deqin, Yongsheng, Heqing, Jianchuan
and Lanping counties in Yunnan Province, as well as
Yanyuan, Yanbian and Muli counties in Sichuan Province.
A small number live in Mangkang County of Tibet Autonomous
The Naxi areas, traversed by the Jinsha,
Lancang and Yalong rivers, and the Yunling, Xueshan
and Yulong mountain ranges, have a complicated terrain.
There are cold mountainous areas, uplands, basins, rivers
and valleys, averaging 2,700 meters above sea level.
The climate varies from cold and temperate to subtropical.
Rainfall is plentiful.
Agriculture is the main occupation
of the Naxi people. The chief crops are rice, maize,
wheat, potatoes, beans, hemp and cotton. The bend of
the Jinsha River is heavily forested, and Yulong Mountain
is known at home and abroad as a "flora storehouse."
The extensive dense forests contain Chinese fir, Korean
pine, Yunnan pine and other valuable trees, as well
as many varieties of herbs including fritillary bulbs,
Chinese caterpillar fungus and musk.
There are rich reserves of such non-ferrous
metals as gold, silver, copper, aluminum and manganese.
Water resources are abundant.
The Naxi language belongs to the Chinese-Tibetan
language family. More than 1,000 years ago, the Naxi
people had already created pictographic characters called
the "Dongba" script and a syllabic writing known as
the "Geba" script. With these scripts they recorded
a lot of beautiful folklore, legends, poems and religious
classics. However, they were difficult to master, and
in 1957 the government helped the Naxi design an alphabetic
script. Over the past few hundred years, as the Naxi
people have come into closer contact with the people
in other parts of China politically, economically and
culturally, the oral and written Chinese has become
an important means of communication in Naxi society.
According to historical documents,
the forefathers of the Naxi people were closely related
to a tribe called "Maoniu Yi" in the Han Dynasty (206
B.C.-A.D. 220), "Mosha Yi" in the Jin Dynasty (265-420)
and "Moxie Yi" in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
Between the early 10th century and
the middle of the 13th century, production in the Lijiang
area underwent marked changes, as agriculture replaced
livestock breeding as the main occupation of the people.
Scores of agricultural, handicraft, mineral and livestock
products were turned out, and the county presented a
picture of prosperity. During that period, a number
of slave-owning groups in Ninglang, Lijiang and Weixi
counties gradually grew into a feudal manorial lord
In 1278 the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368)
established Lijiang Prefecture representing the imperial
court in Yunnan Province. This resulted in closer links
between the Lijiang area and the center of the empire.
In the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644),
the leader of the Naxi people, named Mude, was made
the hereditary chieftain of Lijiang Prefecture, exercising
control over the Naxi people and other ethnic groups
in the vicinity. Throughout the Ming Dynasty, the hereditary
chieftains from the Mu family kept taxes and tribute
flowing to the Ming court in the form of silver and
grain. The Ming, in turn, relied on the Mu family as
the mainstay for the control of the people of various
ethnic groups in northwestern Yunnan Province.
Later, with the development of the
productive forces, buying, selling and renting of land
began to take place in the Naxi areas, marking the beginning
of a landlord economy.
From 1723, during the Qing Dynasty
(1644-1911), hereditary local chieftains in the Lijiang
area began to be replaced by court officials and the
hereditary chieftain surnamed Mu thus became the local
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
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
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
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.
Lijiang Ancient Town
Tiger Leaping Gorge
First Bend Of Yangtze
Lashihai Lake (Lashi
Black Dragon Pool
Naxi Classical Music
Naxi ethnic minority
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf