Situated in the Dai Autonomous Prefecture, the southernmost area of Yunnan Province, Xishuangbanna is a “hot land with no winters”. Known as a kingdom of flora and fauna, a green kingdom and a kingdom of south drugs, it is the largest and best preserved tropical rain forest in the world.
Xishuangbanna, which means twelve thousand pieces of land in Chinese, is the home for Dai people. Far back to over 1000 years ago, the ancestors of Dai people left numerous Dai characters on pattra leaves and cotton paper including more than 550 long poems. The Dai folk dances with very high artistic level have distinctive ethnic features and a unique aesthetic taste, such as the very popular pavane and Xiangjiaogu Dance. The well-known tourism attractions in Xishuangbanna are as follows: a 900-year-old banyan with twisted roots and gnarled branches; Wild Elephant Valley, the only valley in China that holds wild elephants; the Olive Dam with unique characteristics of minority in tropical area; small towns along the Daluo River situated at the Burma-China border; the Chunhuan Park (once the imperial garden of the Thai king); China’s largest botanical garden—Tropical Botanical Garden, and Mandian Fall, etc. Over 20,000 kinds of plants within the bound of Xishuangbanna, of which over 5,000 are tropical plants, more than 10,000 kinds are edible, 50 or more types of wild fruits and over 40 sorts of fast-growing precious timber trees. Many plants here serve as valuable medicines with special use. There are not only a huge number of various plants here but also a great many of animals living in this thick forest, including beautiful peacocks, Silver Pheasants, hornbills. Sometimes you can even see wild elephants walking in the street, sometimes antelopes, deer and hares are running under your nose, which rarely happens elsewhere. Just enjoy yourself with these cute animals and the beautiful scenery in this wonderland—Xishuangbanna!
Rules of the Theravada Buddhism in Xishuangbanna hold it that men must live a religious life away from the family for a period of time. Only when you meet difficulties in life, you can learn to overcome or conquer them, thus you can gain a higher social status when you grow up. All boys aged 7 to 8 should go to a Buddhist temple and live there for some time and people call them little monks. The little monks need to learn to take care of themselves in their daily life, offer their labor and study Buddhist scriptures. Two to three years later they can resume secular life, only then men can be allowed to get married. A man without the life experience in the Buddhist temple will be looked down upon and regarded as a stranger of a savage. When a man is practicing Buddhism in the temple, he is not allowed to talk to or fool around with women. People cannot fondle a little monk’s head, which goes exactly the other way of what Han people’s customs. People, especially women who have touched the head of a little monk will become his enemy because all his previous Buddhism practice has been ruined by that very touch and he will start anew. Visitors should keep this in mind when they go the Buddhist temple.
2. The Water-Sprinkling Festival of the Dai People
A folk story goes like this, once upon a time, the place where Dai people dwelled suffered a great disaster. There is no rain in summer, no wind in spring, no sunshine in autumn but a whole lot of rainfall in winter. Seeing what happened to the people, a man called Payawan decided to go to the Heaven to figure out the reason. Yingda Tira, the king in the Heaven conducted an investigation after hearing Payawan’s report and found out that it was Pengmadian Dallas, the god in charge of wind, thunder, lightning, rain, sun and clouds, that deliberately cause the disaster with his supernatural power. In order to punish this evil god, Yingda Tira disguised himself as a handsome young man. He went to Pengmadian Dallas’ home to visit his seven daughters who were not allowed to leave their home for quite a long time. These girls all fell in love with him at first sight, then Yingda Tira told them all that their father had done to the people on the earth. These seven kind-hearted girls felt very angry and ashamed and agreed unanimously to capture their father to save the world. They tried to find out the secret way of claim their father’s life by acting like father’s spoiled kids. In the end, Pengmadian Dallas told them the only thing that can kill him is his own hair. Knowing this, the girls made their father drunk and cut down some of his hair to make a bow. They managed to cut the demon’s head off by using the bow, however, the head was still with evil force, when it was dropped on the ground, it began to burn like a fireball. They picked the head up and held it in their arms, then the fire disappeared. In order to get rid of the evil fire, the seven girls had to hold it all the time. They took turns once a year to hold it and splash water on each other to wash off the bloodstain and get rid of the awful smell. Gradually it became a tradition for the Dai people to hold the Water-Sprinkling Festival.