Bai culture permeates Dali, where the Old Ancient City relays a visionary tale of Bai history through historical buildings, Bai homes and markets, and the people themselves. The Bai are an ethnic minority centered in the DAP (Dali Autonomous Prefecture) in China where roughly 80% live. They are of Tibeto-Burman heritage whose ancestors were a prominent ethnic group and during the Nanzhao Kingdom, which reigned between the 7th century and 902AD. In Bai culture, the color white is held in the highest esteem; they call themselves the Miep Jiax, Baini, Baihuo, or Baizi, or, all meaning white people.
Bai people are well known for their finely tuned artistic abilities, whether that be in sculpting, music, architecture, painting, or almost any other art. The renowned artistic capabilities within Bai culture are evident throughout Dali Ancient City, within the building designs, homes, and market spaces selling Bai handicrafts and vibrant, traditional clothing made by hand. Song and dance are also important. Mountain songs and folk tunes sung alongside Bai playing traditional instruments.
In Dali, Bai culture comes alive during Third Month Fair festival in the third lunar month. Traditional dress is a large part of festivals. The Bai favor white decorations and clothing, as their name suggests. Women typically don white dresses, colorfully embroidered belts, sleeveless black, red, or blue jackets, and silver or gold jewelry. In Dali, women’s jackets are traditionally trimmed with a purple or black collar and shoes are intricately embroidered. Married women tightly sweep up hair while single women wear one pigtail on the tops of heads. In Bai culture, the most important symbols are the moon, wind, snow, and flowers, represented in costume and headwear.
The Bai in Dali practice Three Course Tea, a tea ceremony popular at weddings, festivals, and other important events. It is practiced to honor guests and as a cultural rite. The first course involves cooking tea leaves in a clay pot, the second is sweet tea, made this way by adding sugar, sweet walnut kernel, and other ingredients, Thirdly, teas is created by mixing ginger slices, honey, pepper, and cassia with hot green tea. Altogether there are 18 strict procedures followed in Three Tea Course said to perfectly embody Bai culture with honest, beauty, and etiquette. Any encounter with the Bai culture will provide a unique glimpse into the lives of the Chinese people.