Yao Ethnic Minority

Last updated by fabiowzgogo at 2014-1-14

Table of Contents

TOPGeneral information

As one of the ethnic minorities in China, the Yao ethnic group has a population of about 2.6 million, most of whom are farmers living in mountainous areas. Titles that they call themselves include the Mian, Jinmen, Bunu, Bingduoyou, Heiyoumeng, and Lajia. In the past, the Yao people were further divided into subgroups based on historical differences in their economic backgrounds, lifestyles, manners and customs including the following and more: Pan Yao, Shanzi Yao, Dingban Yao, Hualan Yao, Guoshang Yao, Baiku Yao, Hong Yao, Landian Yao, Bapai Yao, Pingdi Yao, Ao Yao, etc. In total, there used to be as many as twenty branches of the Yao ethnic group. The different groups of the Yao people had different styles and characteristics in production methods, architectures, and clothes in history. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, they were combined and are now collectively referred to as the Yao ethnic group. The Yao people mainly live in the Guanxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the provinces of Hunan, Yunnan, Guangdong and Guizhou in China.

Girl of Yao Ethnic Group

Girl of Yao Ethnic Group

Most of the Yao people live together in small groups that are distributed widely throughout the mountainous regions in the above mentioned provinces. According to the nationwide population census conducted in the year 2000, the Yao ethnic group has a population of 2,637,421.The Yao have their own language, but it has complicated and quite different local dialects in different regions.  The variations can be so vast that members of different groups can not even understand each other. Furthermore, they do not have their own written language, so they have adopted the system of Chinese characters. . The Yao language belongs to the branch of Miao and Yao Languages, a Sino--Tibetan Language Family. Because they have lived together and communicated with the Han, Zhuang and Miao nationalities for a very long time, the Yao people in different regions can generally speak Chinese, and some can also speak Zhuang and Miao languages.

The Yao people mainly live in subtropical areas, where it usually has an altitude between 1000 and 2000 meters. The villages in which they live are surrounded by plenty of green trees as well as bamboo; as a result, it is very picturesque and beautiful there. Historically, the Yao people had close relations with the Miao ethnic group, both of whom originated from the Wuling People in Qin and Han Dynasties. Around the Sui Dynasty (560 A.D.- 618 A.D.) , the Yao and Miao nationalities living in today's Hunan and Hubei Provinces had evolved into two different ethnic groups. The ancestors of the Yao people in today's Yunnan Province moved from of Guangxi, Guangdong and Guizhou Provinces to Wenshan area during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Later some of them moved to the Honghe River Basin, Mojiang and Mengla areas. Many of the Yao people now in Yunnan Province can not only speak their own language, but also speak Chinese, and the languages of the Zhuang and Miao nationalities, as they used to interact frequently with one another.

TOPThe ethnic history of the Yao people

There are differing opinions about the origins and ancestry of the Yao people. Some experts believe that the ancestors of the Yao were the Shanyue People who lived in the mountain areas of today’s Zhejing Province about 2500 years ago; others believe that they descended from the Wuximan People who lived in the southwest of today’s Hunan Province about 2000 years ago.  On the other hand, there is also a belief that the Yao people did not originate in one particular region, but a variety of locations; however, it is widely believed that the Yao people are originally connected and related to the Jingman, ChangshaWuling People, both of whom lived in today’s Hunan Province.

When the unified multinational centralized system was established in China by Emperor Qinshihuang in 221 BC, a policy of banishing criminals to the minority inhabited border areas was adopted. As a result, a lot of Han people from the central parts of China were sent to today's Changsha and Wuling regions. These people also brought their advanced instruments of production as well as technologies, which gradually promoted the development of social production in these regions. During both the Western Han (202 BC --- 25 AD) and Eastern Han Dynasty (25AD---220AD), the minority people in Wuling area had to pay high taxes to the government. As a result, the minority groups including the ancestors of the Yao people in the Wuling area were once forced to fight against the government in the Eastern Han Dynasty.

During the Southern and Northern Song Dynasties , the ancestors of the Yao people inhabited many locations throughout  China: from today's Shou County of Anhui Province in the east to Shang County of Shanxi Province in the west, Wuling area until the eastern part of today's Henan Province, and the Northwest region of today's Anhui Province. During this period, there was close communication and interaction between the economies and cultures of the Yao and Han people. In the Tang Dynasty (618AD---907AD), the Yao people mainly lived in the provinces of Hunan, Guangxi and Guangdong, and at that time were called Moyao ethnic group. The Moyao people were mostly farmers. Later in the Song Dynasty (960AD---1234AD), the government treated the minorities who lived in the Yao inhabited region with an autonomous status.  In some of these areas, under the rule of the local hereditary chieftains or officials, the process of the feudalization was accelerated. There was one important migration in the history of the Yao people. In the Yuan Dynasty (1271AD---1368AD), some officials from the local government came to the Yao ethnic group to collect taxes. They were greatly welcomed by the Yao people and treated so well that they forgot to go back to the government office; however, their leader mistakenly believed that they had been killed by the Yao people. As a result, the government sent troops to these areas trying to slaughter the local Yao people. Consequently, the Yao people were forced to vacate their land and migrate to different places. Before they departed and went separate ways, they divided an ox horn into twelve parts; one part was kept by each of the twelve families. They vowed all of them would return to their homeland one thousand years later.

During the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, the Yao ethnic groups were distributed in the provinces of Guangxi, Guangdong, southwest Hunan, Yunnan, and some mountainous areas in Guizhou. As they lived in many different places, the development of their social economies widely differed; as a result were quite out of balance. It developed very quickly in some areas resulting in economies that rivaled the Han; however, in the remote mountainous areas, the Yao people just lived in groups around the creeks and valleys and also they did not even have farming. These people lacked a method of farming, so they made a living by hunting animals in the mountains.  As a result of the exploitation, wars and slaughters by the feudal rulers, some of the Yao people escaped to borders of Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. In the 1970s some of the Yao people living in these countries immigrated to the US, France, Canada and other countries.

TOPTradition and customs

The clothes of both men and women of the Yao ethnic group are made of blue and green folk weaves. Men like to wear front opening short robes without collars, together with long pants or knee-length shorts. The men living in Yao villages in Nandan County of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region wear white embroidered trousers, The Yao men living in Liannan Yao Autonomous County of Guangdong Province are fond of making chignons, pronounced "sheen-yon," usually decorated with pheasant feathers for their hair , and wimpling, or wrapping their heads with red cloth. Yao women like to wear side opening jackets without collars and long pants, shorts, or accordion pleated skirts. In addition, they always sew colorful and gorgeous hand-stitching work as well as embroideries on the collars, cuffs, belts and skirt hems, to make them very bright-colored and eye-catching. The Yao people have many varieties and styles of headdresses. They like to use silver hairpins, silver flowers, strings of silver beads, small arch-shaped silver planks and so on together with colorful ribbons to make head accessories. Judging from the different accessories, one can easily tell whether or not a girl is a maiden, unmarried or married woman.

The main foods of the Yao people are corn, rice, and sweet potatoes. In daily life they eat soybeans, peas, pumpkins, peppers, domestic fowl, and livestock.  In Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the local Yao people catch migrating birds in basins and pickle them to make a special delicacy to treat distinguished guests. In some areas of the northern part of Guangxi where the Yao people live, oil-tea is very popular. First, they sauté tea leaves in oil; and then they make soups with the leaves; after that, they add some seasonings such as fresh ginger, pepper, and salt into the soup. At last, the soup is mixed with fried rice, fried peas and candies before drinking it. This kind of oil-tea has a very special and unique flavor.

TOPArchitecture

The Yao people dwell in bamboo huts, log cabins, thatched cottages and a few live in houses built with mud walls and tiled roofs. A Yao house is usually composed of three rooms, the middle of which is the family room, while on either side of it is the bedroom with a kitchen in the front and a sleeping bed in the back part. The bath, shed, pen and lairage are built in front of and behind the house respectively.

Generally speaking, the Yao people do not intermarry with other ethnic groups. The custom of having the husband live with the wife's family is quite popular. The young men and women have the freedom of choosing and falling in love with a partner. Through the form of ballads, they seek their lovers during festivals, assemblies, and the slack farming season during which they visit different villages. If they both like each other, they will give each other keepsakes. This is the tradition of falling in love freely without the intervention of parents. In some areas they need permission from their parents, so a matchmaker will assist in communicating between the two parties before they decide to get married.

The funeral customs of the Yao ethnic group differ in different regions and branches. For example, The Mianzhi branch of the Yao people typically bury their deceased in graves.  In the past, rock burial used to be popular among the Buluzhi branch, but nowadays they have adopted the practice or ritual burials instead. The adults of the Lajiazhi branch are cremated after death, while minors are buried and babies have a tree burial (when a baby dies soon after birth, the corpse will be put into a bamboo basket and then hung on a tree in the woods). In the Liannanbaipai branch, when people die, the corpse will first be bound to a chair. When the funeral procession is held, it will be carried to the tomb and then put into the coffin. This kind of burial is called a Traveling Corpse Burial by the local people.

TOPVarious Festivals of the Yao nationality

The Yao ethnic group has many festivals, such as the Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, Ganba Festival, New Rice Festival, Mulian Festival, Panwang Festival, etc. The Panwang Festival is the biggest among the Yao people. The Yao ethnic people like singing loud, clear and beautiful ballads whenever there is a festival or happy event. The festivals mentioned above can be divided into big festivals and mini-festivals. Big festivals include the Panwang Festival, Spring Festival, Danu Festival, Ghost Festival, Shewang Festival, Qingming Festival, etc. There are less important festivals almost every month. Danu Festival, which is held among the Yao people in the Duan Yao Autonomous Region in Guangxi, is very popular and ceremonious.

Panwang Festival

It is said that this is a festival to commemoratehe struggle of their ancestors against the exploitation of ancient hereditary chieftains. Panwang Festival has been commonly referred to as Entertaining God of Panwang and thanking him for making their wishes come true. It is held on October 16th according to the local calendar every three or five years; however, in some areas, the Yao people have this festival once in twelve years. The frequency of this festival depends on the traditions of different Yao branches, how good the harvest is and the health of both people and their livestock. Usually one, several families, or maybe even the whole village celebrate this festival together. During the main ceremony, the folk master will entertain the God of Panwang, pray and sing songs for him.  One method of prayer is the long-drum dance which asks Panwang for protection.   This festival is usually celebrated ceremoniously by the Mianzhi branch of the Yao people.

Taonianbai Festival

The name of this festival means a festival celebrated in the middle of the month. It is celebrated from March 15th to March 17th every year according to the local calendar. During these three days, all the people in the Yao villages are very excited and happy. Young girls who have grown up playing and swimming in the clean creeks all look slim and naturally pretty; however, during these days, they all dress up and look much more lovely and beautiful. All of them wear embroidered blouses and straight skirts with various patterns. In addition, they also wear silver necklaces and gilded earbobs, and can be seen smiling under beautiful silk umbrellas. While the young men have their heads wimpled with checkered turbans, and wear pants with their own ethnic features. All of them look energetic and robust.  Even the elderly grandpas and grandmas coming from near and far dress up especially for this festival and gather together to celebrate this traditional event.  

There is a moving and tragic story that surrounds the evens of the Taonianbai. It is said that during Emperor Kangxi's Reign in the Qing Dynasty, troops from the government came to conquer the regions where the Yao ethnic group lived, and pillaged the Yao villages killing a lot of innocent local people.  Consequently, all the Yao people lived a very miserable and abject life, and faced the threat of extinction.

Just at this moment, with danger prevailing all over these regions, Fengjie, who was a smart, brave, capable and experienced girl from the Yao nationality, with all her heart and soul as well as grief and indignation, organized all the brave and robust young men and women from different Yao villages.  They worked hard and steadfast collecting stones and rocks to build fortifications, cut trees to make strongholds, and guarded their homeland against the invaders. When the invading troops were defeated, she and the Yao army chased the remaining invaders back to their base, which was then burned by the Yao army and turned into ashes.

After the first failure, the local governor asked the emperor to dispatch more and more government troops. With the advantage of the complicated local topography and Fengjie's intelligent leadership, all the Yao people held together, adept at defending and attacking. The government troops could do nothing to win the war. At last, they devised a deceptive plan.  

They dispatched a strong young soldier disguised as a vendor from the Yao ethnic group to the Yao village with a lot of daily-use necessities for sale, such as salt and cloth. He went to Fengjie's house to sell goods. When the latter found him to be one single man, just opened the door and welcomed him. However, the man suddenly took out his sword and stabbed at Fengjie. Almost simultaneously, awaiting government troops ambushed the village from outside. Seriously injured and unprepared for battle, Fengjie led the Yao armies to fight against the government troops in today's Shuidongping region for three days. Because they were outnumbered, all the 600 Yao people, including Fengjie, were slaughtered by the government troops.

The brave girl Fengjie lost her life in that battle; however, from then on, she has always lived in the hearts of all Yao people. After her death, people wanted to do something to commemorate this brave girl, but were afraid any such activities would bring suspicion and hate from the feudal rulers. As a result, they just came to Shuidongping area, gathered together and held various activities of their own ethnic features from May 15th to May 17th every year. During the three days, the young men and women would seek their lovers, dance and sing, through which they expressed their love and respect to the great heroine Fengjie. As time went on, this activity gradually became a traditional big festival of the Yao nationality for people to assemble as well as do some shopping.

Taoliaogui Festival

The name of this festival means escaping from ferocious and sinister evils. There are two phases to celebrate this festival. The first time is on July 2nd according to the local calendar in the Maole area; the Yao people living here begin to eat cucumbers and white melons after this day because of the following legend.  At the end of the Song Dynasty, the ancestors of the Yao people who lived in Tianlu area of Jian city, Jiangxi Province were often exploited by the two local magistrates Zhao and Wang. On July 2nd, some pregnant women escaped to hide in the cucumber and white melon fields around Ejing Hill and avoided persecution from the government troops. After these Yao made a rule that from then on, only after July 2nd, could they and their descendants eat cucumbers and white melons. To do so, is taboo and considered bad luck. The second phase of this festival is from July 8th to July 10th. This time the festival is celebrated by the Yao people in Xiaoshajiang region. It is said that on the first year of Emperor Yongzheng's Reign (1723), six girls from four local Yao families were bullied and chased by one bad landlord causing a resistance.  The landlord lied to the government and said that the girls wanted to start a rebellion. In addition, he asked the government to send troops to arrest the girls. The Yao people organized together and fought against the government troops in Dashajing and Xiaoshajiang areas; they retreated to Matang Mountains and guarded themselves with the help of the complicated local environment. At last, the government was forced to negotiate peace with the Yao people. The Yao people gave two nicknames Dashaguang and Xiaoshaguang for the two places where they had resisted the invading troops from the government. The two nicknames mean Big Slaughter Place and Small Slaughter Place. Later in order to promote the friendship and solidarity between the Yao nationality and other ethnic groups, they changed the names into Dashajiang and Xiaoshajiang. Nowadays during the festival, all the Yao people will dress up, gather together and hold various fun activities. Many other ethnic groups, including the Han, nearby also join them. People have parties, dances, and sing ballads.  It is especially a good forum for young single men and women to seek their lovers. It is a very happy event and full of a festive and joyous atmosphere.

Danu Festival

Danu is a name from the Yao language meaning never forget. This festival comes on May 29th.  It is believed that this day is the birthday of Zuniang, an ancestor of the Yao people. As a result, it is also name named Zuniang Festival. 

It is said that Zuniang was actually known as Miluotuo by the ancient Yao people. Once she asked her third daughter to go to the mountains to reclaim the land. Before her daughter left, she gave her a precious item---the bronze drum. The drum helped the young girl dispel birds and make a good harvest. The third daughter of Zuniang got married with a local Yao man and lived happily in the mountains.  Their lives flourished and created more and more descendants, who were the early ancestors of today's Yao nationality. To commemorate Zuniang, the Yao people celebrated her birthday and named it Danu Festival. 

On this day, all the Yao people from different villages clean their houses and streets; they also make offerings of rice wines and sticky rice cakes to worship Zuniang. According to traditional customs, all families have to sacrifice some chickens and sheep. Young men and women wear special clothes and assemble at one place; they celebrate the birthday of Zuniang by hitting a big drum which symbolizes the bronze drum that Zuniang had given to her daughter. All of them worship Zuniang piously and pray to her for a good harvest every year as well as a happy and prosperous life to both man and livestock. While enjoying the performance of hitting the drum, all the people will try their best to propose a toast to the best drummer and deem him King of Drum. In addition, they will sing the traditional Miluotuo songs accompanied by dance and music as a tribute to Zuniang and what she had done for the Yao people.   

Ox Festival

The Ox Festival of the Yao nationality deals with agriculture production. In the areas where the Yao ethnic group live, ox is a very important source of animal power for in farming. People need ox to plough and harrow their farmland. In the past, some of the Yao people also used oxen to pull their carts when transporting goods. Because of the reliance on oxen for labor, it has gradually become a cherished and loved symbol and tradition to the Yao nationality as well as the creation of The Ox Festival. According to the folk legends of the Yao nationality, April 8th every year is the birthday of ox; therefore, the Yao people make this day the Ox Festival, during which all oxen have a rest.  People are not allowed to shout or scream to oxen or even beat them with whips or sticks. In today's Lucheng area of Tianlin County, Guanxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, all the Yao families kill chickens and ducks, pick up mud-snails, and catch loaches to prepare sacrifices for worshipping the byres. They take off the ring from an ox’s neck and put it into a bamboo basket together with three stones, three peaches and one scarecrow ( symbolize a shepherd ), and then hang the bamboo basket on the byre. This job has been known as Protecting the Soul of the Ox.

In today's Fuchuan Yao Autonomous County of Guangxi, the Yao people make fodders mixed with wines and eggs to feed the ox, and then take them to a place abundant with water and green grass for the ox to enjoy. The people just sit down on the grass and enjoy the delicious food they have brought with them from home. When night falls, they wash their ox to make them look as clean as a penny before taking them back home. After the ox enter their byres, people burn incense and light fireworks to worship the God of Ox and pray for their ox’s safety and peace. In today's Guiping City of Guangxi, on this day colorful sticky rice wrapped with fresh mango leaves are made in each Yao family, and brought to the byre as sacrifices to worship the God of Ox and pray for peace and safety for all livestock as well as a good harvest. At last, they feed the ox the delicious sticky rice.

TOPEtiquette and taboos of the Yao nationality 

Etiquette has always been considered very important by the Yao ethnic group. In their daily life there are a lot of customary manners and taboos. When people meet each other while on the way, they always have to say hello, otherwise it will be considered impolite. The people should also never wash their face and feet in the same basin. While having dinner it is not allowed to use another person’s chopsticks or bowls. Clothes cannot be dried in front of gates after being washed. Spitting is forbidden indoors. People cannot kill pigs on the Day of Pig and chickens on the Day of Chicken; as well as, no selling of ox or horses on the Day of Ox and Horses. When a guest visits a Yao family, he must greet the hostess to make her happy, otherwise be considered arrogant and impolite.

The Yao ethnic group respect old people very much. When meeting an elderly person outside, it is necessary to say hello and then retreat to the lower part of the road for them to pass. One must dismount if he meets an old person while riding a horse. It is not allowed to sit cross-legged, speak dirty words, or use their names while sitting in front of seniors or old people. While having dinner with seniors or old people, one should offer them a higher seat, serve them food, and put the most delicious dishes close to the senior guests.

On January 1st according to the local calendar, the Yao women stay at home instead of visiting other families. They do not eat green vegetables and some even place a tree branch in front of their house gate. All families stay at home on January 3rd, 5th, and 6th.

The Dragon Worshipping Ceremony is held every year on January 2nd by the Yao people -- in some areas it is held on March 3rd. On this day they worship the Soul of Rice, the Goddess of Rice, the ancestor Pangu, the Jade Emperor, the ancestor Shennong, and more, in order to pray for healthy livestock, bountiful harvests, safety and peace throughout the year, and security of money and property. During the ceremony, an activity is held to clean; women are not allowed to participate. Also at this time, strangers cannot enter the villages. Strangers already residing inside the village must wait until the ceremony has completed to leave. 

The fire pit is the most important part of a Yao family. The tripod on the fire pit cannot be stepped on and the firewood or straws cannot be burned with the back or end first. In some places the Yao people do not eat dog, so if visitors come to the Yao community, they should not beat the host family’s dogs eat dog meat. In some of the regions where the Yao people live, it is forbidden to eat turtles, snakes or eels.

TOPReligious belief

The Yao ethnic group has very complicated religious beliefs. In some areas the worship of nature, the worship of ancestors or the worship of totems plays a very important part in people's lives. While in some other places, the Yao people mainly believe in witches and Daoism. Daoism has greatly influenced the Yao nationality. All funerals are held under the doctrines of Daoism combined with a few characteristics of the primitive Yao religion. . The Yao nationality believes that dogs are their ancestors. As a result, during important festivals, they always let dogs lick the food on table first before they have dinner. It is said that long ago, there were two kings who were fighting each other; one king made a pledge that anybody who killed his enemy would be able to marry his daughter. The ancestor of the Yao community--- a dog --, took the imperial order, went secretly into the other king's headquarter at night and bit off his head. The king who had made the promise could revoke his word, even though it was a dog that had killed his enemy. He ordered them to seclude themselves in great mountains and stay away from the outside world. The ancestor of the Yao nationality came to a place surrounded by high mountains with the daughter of the king. Then at night the ancestor of the Yao ethnic group suddenly changed into a man from a dog, and they two became husband and wife. They had more and more children and gradually developed into a group of one thousand families. Later this place was named One Thousand Family Village.

Dujie:the Adult Ceremony of the Yao Nationality

After fifteen years old all the young boys and girls of the Yao ethnic group will have to change their flower-trimmed hats to fascinators, to symbolize the maturity of their bodies. Boys have to undergo Dujie, which is actually the Adult Ceremony. In some Yao villages, in order to publicize the 'Ten Testaments’, old performing artists are invited to rap and give lectures to educate the young boys about the dangers of pornography, robbery, rape, and laziness. Instead, they should learn to work hard, make progress, respect the old and love the young, and manage the household with diligence and thrift. The Yao people can fall in love independently and have thrifty wedding ceremonies. The Landian branch of the Yao people have the tradition of matrilocal marriages in which the husband lives with his wife’s family.

     Dujie is a unique and peculiar customary ceremony when a boy enters manhood. It is a very sacred and holy lesson man must receive in the process of his growing up; it is even more important and ceremonious than marriage. The Yao people do not consider 18 years old as the age of maturity. Instead, they believe that, regardless of how old a man is, as long as he has participated in and passed the adult ceremony, he is an adult. This passing will make him protected by God and accepted by the society with all rights and responsibilities of a man, capable of serving as a public official of the village, and eventually realize the social value of a man.  A man who has not taken part in or passed the adult ceremony is not considered as a real man with great value. As a result, he does not have social status, will not be loved by girls, and probably can never find a wife to get married. If an elderly person has never participated in an adult ceremony, then he must manage to do it as soon as possible, otherwise he will not be accepted as a member of the Yao ethnic group. With a long history, the adult ceremony now still plays a very important role in the social life of the Yao people living in Jiangcheng County of Yunnan Province.

The process of the adult ceremony is very complicated in the Yao community and takes a lot of preparation time. As soon as a boy is ten years old, his parents will invite a knowledgeable man to calculate the best year for him to take part in the adult ceremony. One or two years before the ceremony, the parents begin to do detailed preparations and set its exact date. After all this is done, as many knowledgeable teachers as possible will be invited again. The teachers will instruct the boy by using books and instilling as much knowledge about all the traditional moralities, virtues, and rules of the Yao nationality which eventually make the boy cultivate his own morality; they will further show the boy and have him practice diligently on a big table what he must do during the ceremony. The boy has to sleep in bed covered with a quilt for five days before the ceremony begins.

The whole process of the adult ceremony is long and complicated. It begins even before the sun rises. The teacher will first read scriptures and help the boy go through the religious rites. Then the teacher who wears a red gown helps the boy put on the same clothes, tie a red belt, and wear a charm of the ancient Yao sacred statue. The teacher ties one end of a red ribbon to his own waist, and the other end to the boy's waist, which symbolizes that his student is just like the baby who has not yet been delivered from the mother's womb. With the divine sword and the ritual apparatus in his hands, the teacher leads the boy into the courtyard for the ceremony. On the way there, the teacher also hands out paper money to the surrounding audience. After reaching the altar of heaven, the boy will first walk around the altar in three clockwise circles under the leadership of the teacher. Then the teacher climbs up to the altar with a tool shaped like tree leaves in his hands, murmuring some words. Then he comes down, leads the boy to the big table, and unties the red belt symbolizing birth. At the same time, he tells the boy about the oath he will make. The boy kneels down to thank his teacher before the wooden ladder is taken away. Then the boy swears to the heaven, that he will never murder, commit any crime of arson, robbery, theft, rape, kidnapping, mistreat his parents, backstab any person, etc. When the oath is finished, the teacher makes a red stamp on one of the boy's hands with a triangle seal before the adult ceremony is concluded.

The adult ceremony in the Yao community of Jiangcheng County, Yunnan Province has its own unique ethnic features. All through the ceremony, traditional Yao virtues and moralities as well as commandments and spirits are taught, in order to instill morals into boys entering society, and provide good education and training at a critical stage of their development. The adult ceremony can actively promote study, inheritance, and development of the traditional culture of the Yao nationality.

Paohuabao-A unique and amazing custom of the Yao nationality

Paohuabao is a form of entertainment among the young men and women of the Yao nationality in Funing County, Yunnan Province. It is called Wuduo in the Yao language.

Huabao is actually a small package of corn sewed in red, yellow, blue and white cloths. All the men join together as one group and women as the other group; the groups do not have a size limit.  The groups are spaced about three meters apart; each person has one package in both hands. One picks the package with his or her left hand, and then throws it to the other side with the right hand. Then repeat it. The spectacle of this activity looks like a flurry of colorful flowers flying through the air. 

Legend goes that long ago, there was a young man and a girl who had fallen in love with each other. The man was named Panasi, and the girl was known as Liusanniang. The chieftain of the Yao nationality wanted to take Liusanniang as one of his concubines, but was refused. Then he turned to Panasi and said that he must make a phoenix coat with five colors in one day, otherwise he would not be allowed to marry Liusanniang. Panasi went through a lot of hardships without even catching one single bird. When he believed that he was without hope, a fairy was greatly moved by the spirits of Panasi and gave him a phoenix coat. With the help of Liusanniang and all the other villagers, Panasi defeated and killed the chieftain He was then wed to Liusanniang. In order to commemorate the fairy’s help, Panasi embroidered four packages in four colors-red, yellow, blue and white, following the colors of the phoenix coat. The last color black was abandoned, which symbolized breaking through the darkness and coming into the bright world. From then on, there was the activity of Paohuabao in the Yao community.  

Nowadays this activity in Funing County is an event of social interaction between young Yao men and women. Many of them get their life long partners by taking part in this activity.

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