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Customs and Taboos in Yunnan

Customs and Taboos in Yunnan

Rituals of Offering Sacrifices and Taboos in Festivals

There’s nothing more important than offering sacrifices to gods of creation and their ancestors to show their devoutness in Yunnan. In the minds of those devout, gods are benevolent for they tend to be pleased by flattery. On the other hand they’re also capable of changing since they could punish human beings with natural disasters, among others. Thus, rituals of sacrifices are the most frequented occasions.

The Miao Ethnic Group

The woods are open only when the local people have offered sacrifices to gods or when they’ve prayed for good health. Mowing and trimming are often strictly forbidden in the woods. The local people believe that natural disasters are caused when this rule is broken. The ritual of offering sacrifices are off limits to women, children and foreigners.

The Hani Ethnic Group

On the day when local people offer sacrifices to the patron god “Puma Wopo,” the people in the Hani Ethnic Group are forbidden to speak a foreign language. The holy woods are also off limits to any woman that is fertile. Hunting inside the holy woods is also not allowed. Additionally, people are strictly forbidden to cross the three holy stones for offering sacrifices. Anyone who breaks the rules is considered a defender against the god “Puma Wopo” as well as being punished and cursed by the villagers.

The Wa Ethnic Group

During the whole process of “Leng Sanmu (a ritual ceremony),” the huge, lighted holy candle often remains lit. The people dance around the porch (for offering sacrifices) and the holy candle until the holy candle burns out on its own. If the holy candle dies out during the process, the people should stop all activities and stand in silence as a tribute because they think it as a sign. After the 7th day of the month in the Chinese lunar calendar, the people pick another lucky day for the ritual. They prepare sumptuous food as sacrifices and light the holy candle again. This ritual is to be continued if the holy candle dies out again.

The Zhuang Ethnic Group

The Shrine is the place where the Zhuang people offer their sacrifices. Everyone is forbidden to cross the shrine, make a bed above the shrine, or place clothes and food on the shrine. 

The Bai Ethnic Group

For the Bai Ethnic Group, watering and sweeping the floor are not allowed on the first day of Chinese New Year. This is because they believe this kind of behavior would sweep fortunes away.
In the first five days of Chinese New Year, pouring dirty water into the well is not allowed because it will bring natural disaster.

Holy Symbols and Taboos

In the history based on legends and tales, people worship many things. These beliefs are passed down from generation to generation. The things that people worship are more representative of symbols than the things themselves. Such symbols as the sun, the moon, mountains and rivers, water and fire, thunder and lightning, plants and animals are various. Some of them correlate with totems, the activities of the ancestors, have a bearing on the god of creation, or resemble the characteristics of certain things. There are rigid taboos related to the holy symbols. A failure to observe these taboos may bring on natural disasters.

The Mosuo People of the Naxi Ethnic Group

Catching dragonflies by the springs is a big no-no for these people. Legend has it that in the past, the dragon king blocked all water resources, triggering a severe drought in the human world. It was the eagle god who defeated the dragon king and saved the human beings. The eagle god later appointed dragonflies to stay around the springs and begin the fight against of the dragon king. As a result, catching dragonflies would ensue from drought.

Crossing the campfire is prohibited as well as speaking near it as it is  bad luck to do so. If you are to add a piece of firewood to the campfire, you’re supposed to add it in the front rather than its side. Otherwise, you will be considered an enemy of the god of fire.

You also mustn’t cut down the trees by the springs or it will irritate the god of water and evil spirits will haunt you.

Also, shooting the cuckoos are not allowed. They are revered for bringing harvest. Eating dog meat is also not allowed because they believe dogs exchange its longevity with man.

The Yi Ethnic Group

Anyone, being hosts or guests, are not allowed to sit in the fireplace. You can sit beneath or on the sides of the fireplace. Otherwise, you will be seem as an enemy of The Yi groups’ ancestors.

No stepping on the stones in the fireplace, let alone crossing over them. When cooking, the local people are not allowed to put cooker or food on the stones of the fireplace. The stones of the fireplace cannot be moved casually. If necessary, the local people would pick a lucky day and relocate them after offering sacrifices to the god of fire.