Naxi Culture and Dress - Real Chinese Minority Culture

The Naxi Ethnic group has a population of about 250,000 people. It is divided into two dialect groups. An eastern one and a western one located in Yunnan, Sichuan, and Tibet provinces. Dongba culture refers to Naxi ancient culture with a history of nearly a thousand years.

The Naxi Ethnic group has its own written language called "Dongba Characters". They include over 1,400 single characters and are considered unique "living pictographs". They are the only living people to use hieroglyphics in the world. Since the early twentieth century scholars from both China and abroad have been studying and translating this unique ancient form of writing in the hopes of better understanding ancient China and its culture. In the 1980's, the Dongba Culture Research Bureau was set up to help further the study of the Naxi ethnic group and its culture.

While wandering along the ancient streets and alleyways of Lijiang's Old Town, a visitor will undoubtedly hear the melodious Naxi ancient music. The traditional Naxi classical music is considered a "living fossil of Chinese music". After over 500 years of evolution, Naxi ancient music has developed its own unique style. Played on traditional Chinese music, the traditional music is said to have the power to cleanse the heart and relax the mind.

The Naxi ethnic minority group has its own distinctive style of traditional clothing. Naxi women living in the Lijiang area typically wear pants, a loose wide sleeved gown topped with a waistcoat and a pleated apron. Their shoes are boat-shaped and hand-embroidered. Naxi women's clothing typically comes in black, white, or blue and is embroidered with flower patterns on the collars, sleeves, and front. Over their shoulders, they wear a sheep skin cape with seven round embroidered discs representing seven stars. The cape is used to prevent chafing when carrying baskets on their backs. Married women comb their hair into a bun and wear a round cap, while unmarried women wear their hair in braids coiled on the back of their head and wear a handkerchief or a black velvet cap. Men, women, and children carry baskets on their backs. These baskets have two arm straps and fit like a Western-style backpack. Their baskets work not only as their book bags but are also used to carry their children, vegetables, laundry, and even bricks. The baskets are not only functional but are very beautiful with different patterns and colors are woven into them.

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