Yunnan Province is very proud of their minority population. There are something like 26 official indigenous minorities made up of everything from Tibetans to some of the tribes from Northern Thailand and Laos.
Not far from town, they've constructed a tourist attraction devoted to all of the minorities, their home life and of course, their crafts for sale.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't one of those terrible monasteries that I've been writing about, there are many many opportunities to buy things, but there's also a reasonably sincere attempt at displaying the unique architectural and cultural legacies of these peoples.
Xia-feng, a nurse at the hospital where I'm interning, and I went there on a whim one afternoon. It was a weekday afternoon and because of this, there was a refreshing lack of crowds there.
Because we weren't constantly fighting crowds, this was one of my better touristy activities that I've had in Kunming.
This structure is an exact replica of a Buddhist temple you'll find in Yunnan's southern Jungle built by the Dai minority. The tips are adorned with wind chimes, bells, actually.
I witnessed this on what was Thanksgiving in the states. I couldn't help but start to hum "Silver Bells", a Christmas carol for the rest of the day.
One of the minorities, the "Wa" people, really had a thing for the skull of the bull.
The bull represents for the "Wa" people, as it does in so many other civilizations, material success.
Here are the "Wa" dancers. "Wa" in Chinese also means "Wow!" Though, that's more of a coincidence than anything.
I really wasn't too "wowed" by any of the dancers that I saw while at the minorities village. They all had that certain spirit in their dance that said "Oh no, here we go again..."
The "Wa" people hold the feminine principle to be the creative aspect of the universe. That's the Goddess on the left. Next to her, we find the male principle, in the form of their common ancestor, the first "Wa" man. So the first waman was actually a dude. :)
"You can't be serious!" This is my host for the day, Xia-feng.
She's not too crazy about walking across the primitive suspension bridge. We ultimately did pass through it, though images of Boy Scout jamborees came to mind as the challenge of walking through instantly made us both feel like intrepid explorers.
One of the minority nationalities used the gourd as a symbol of the creative principle of the universe. The gourd mimics the female shape, especially when pregnant. Everything that they had, from religious icons to the shape of their land plots reflected the shape of the gourd.
Other minorities used other shapes to describe the creative power of the universe.
This is a scaled down version of the Buddhist pagodas found in nearby Dali, the site of the ancient seat of power for this area and home to the Bai people.
The famous Bai girls.
All of the tourist books that I've found seem to feel that these girls are the most beautiful in all of China. The one on the right holds a stick that she used to whack the butts of her friends as they walked by. Perhaps that is part of the attraction?
My time at the Yunnan Minorities Village was well spent. It's interesting to note the apparent appreciation that China has for its indigenous minorities. Kind of like the recent interest in the American Indian culture that has evolved from cowboy and Indian movies into a more healthy appreciation of their culture.
It isn't likely that a guest at the Yunnan Minorities Village will have the opportunity to truly appreciate the depth of the culture that can be found among these peoples, but its a start.