The Dai Ethnic Garden, located in the Ganlan Basin in Menghan County, proudly holds a national 4A rating as one of China's top scenic spots. Within the Dai Ethnic Garden, five Dai villages - Manjiang, Manchunman, Manting, ManZha, and Manga - cover an area of 3.36 square kilometers and consist of 309 families, or 1487 individual villagers.
Rainforest surrounds and permeates the villages. The well-proportioned bamboo-constructed houses of the Dai people are dotted here and there, hidden in the coconut palms, Areca Catechu palms, mango trees, Litchi trees, Bombay Blackwood, and pomelo trees. Here, visitors have a unique opportunity to experience the traditional culture and hospitality of the friendly Dai people. The Water-Sprinkling Festival is the largest of several celebrations in which visitors are welcomed to take part. There are Buddhist temples in every village, and many buildings display fine examples of the traditional Dai pillar railing architectural style.
Dai Ethnic Garden
Nothing can equal a stay in the Dai Village for a microcosmic view of all that is great about the Dai culture, and a chance to experience the unforgettable warmth of the Dai people.
"Manjian" is a transliteration of the Dai language. "Man" means a village while "jian" means thin bamboo strips which are used to carry huge stones. It is said that when the ancestor of Buddha came to this village, he saw a beautiful stone surrounded by an aura; he asked that the stone be carried to a small hill by the river, in order to create a holy place for people to visit. But how could it be done? People thought over and over again. Finally, they successfully carried the stone to the small hill with the help of bamboo strips. The ancestor of Buddha renamed the village "Manjian" to replace the old name "Manhe".
"Manchunman" is a transliteration of the Dai Language. "Man" means "a village" while "chunman" means "a garden"; so "Manchunman" means a village of gardens. Manchunman Village is famous for its magnificent Buddhist Temple. The Manchunman Buddhist Temple, the oldest temple in Xishuangbanna, has a history going back more than 1400 years. Here, the rich and enduring Buddhist culture is further represented by the painted murals in the temple depicting The Story of Sakyamuni.
There are 103 families comprising 526 people in the village; the grounds around the villagers' bamboo houses are planted with lush tropical flowers and trees such as coconut palms and mangoes.
"Manzha", meaning "Cooks' Village", is a transliteration of the Dai language. 42 families comprising 212 people live here. In ancient times, the village headman set aside a special village to be used only for cooking. Within the village, chefs were specially trained to cook food for the chieftain. Nowadays, visitors are welcomed to savor the flavor of this very special cuisine.
What deserves to be mentioned is that within the village there is a Buddhist Temple and an ancient sacred place more than 200 years old. The Manzha temple, unique for the fact that it has monks but no Buddha, is second only to the Manchun Temple in Dai history.
"Manting" is a transliteration of the Dai language, and means "Court Garden". But there is another saying about the name of the village. Long ago, passers-by often stayed in the village to observe the tame peacocks; and because of the number of peacocks the people named it "Peacock Village".
The White Pagodas and the Buddhist Temple of Manting Village were built in the year 669. The Sakyamuni statue in the hall of the temple is said to be the highest in the Ganlanba (the Olive Flatland) district. Besides the Great Buddha Temple and the White Pagodas, there is an amazing pavilion known as a "Mochu", which houses impressive golden Pazhao statues donated by a Thai philanthropist.
"Manga", meaning "going to the fair", is a transliteration of the Dai language. 27 families, or 107 people in total, live in the village. It is said that the founder of the village was a Han national, named Li Daorong, who married a Dai woman and settled down. Later, Han people from Guangdong and Guangxi (now provinces of China) gathered there to work as butchers. A gradual mixing of the Dai and Han ethnic groups occurred. Even now, some of the Manga Village inhabitants in their sixties or seventies retain the Han appearance and features. An elderly resident who speaks in the pure Dai language tone is actually a later generation Han; a shining example of harmony and acceptance where two ethnic groups live as one.
The Longde Lake and the Mother and Son Island
"Longde" means "pond" in the Dai language. Said to be the only natural lake in Xishuangbanna, Longde covers an area of 200 hectares, with water 1.5 meters in depth. It is a singularly beautiful and serene scenic spot. The island in the lake is quiet and peaceful - a symbol of love and kindness.
In the forest beside the Manga village stands a small temple that looks like a pavilion. Within, only darkness can be felt without lighted lamps or candles - even in the daytime. Two door-gods (also called door-general keepers) stand on each side of the entrance. Three huge rock masses stand in the front of the hall. Behind them lies an offering stand that is said to be the sacrifice pad of Li Daorong; the two nearby are the sacrifice pads for his assistants. On the sixth day of every March or the seventh day of every July, and during the Spring Festival, the Dai and Han people from the Manga Village carry a pig's head, a cock, joss sticks, and paper made to resemble money to the temple to worship there.
Sacrifices to the Peacock Tomb
It is said that in the 1960s in Ganlan (the Olive Flatland), a gold peacock died after it had brought wealth to the people. As a mark of commemoration and appreciation, the people buried the peacock together with a treasured sword in the center of the village. On the 14th day of July of the Dai calendar, male villagers carry a pig's head and wrapped rice as offerings to worship the gold peacock; and after the sacrifice ceremony a large banquet is held. This memorial ceremony is held both to honor the peacock, and to offer prayers for good weather for the crops and good health for the people.