The Li and Miao ethnic minorities have lived in the National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest for generations. They are mainly distributed in the central Wuzhishan area. Before modern times, the Li and Miao people lived in the tropical rainforest in Hainan, believed in animism, and upheld totem worship. They have lived on the abundant natural resources of the rainforest. Their customs are deeply influenced by the geographical environment and climatic conditions of the tropical rainforest. Thus they've formed a unique tropical rainforest ethnic culture in Hainan.
A variety of trees and fruits are seen in the tropical rainforest. Wild vegetables and mushrooms all over the mountains provide rich food and medicines to the Li and Miao people. And birds and animals in the rainforest provide them with vital sources of protein; They reclaim terraces and plant all kinds of crops by rotation, as they understand the characteristics of rainforest soil.
Each place has its own way of supporting its own inhabitants. The unique natural environment and resources of the tropical rainforest create great conditions for the production and life of the Li and Miao people. On the other hand, while making full use of rainforest resources, the Li and Miao also protect nature through totem worship and hunting taboos in their various cultural customs, which maintain the biodiversity of Hainan's tropical rainforest in an objective manner and imperceptibly put into practice the sustainable development concept.
(I) The Origins of Li and Miao
The Li is the largest and most widely distributed ethnic minority in Hainan. Most scholars believe that the Li ethnic minority mainly originated from the Luoyue, a branch of ancient Yue nationality in southern China. They claim themselves the aborigines of Hainan Island and were the first human group to develop Hainan Island on a large scale. In the Shang Dynasty 3,000 years ago, the ancestors of Li who carried on the Baiyue culture began to move from Guangdong, Guangxi and other places to Hainan Island.
Due to the different times and places when and where the ancestors landed in Hainan, the Li ethnic minority is divided into five groups by dialect: Ha, Qi, Run, Sai, and Meifu. The proportions of these five dialect groups in the total population of the Li ethnic minority are as follows respectively: Ha for 58%, Qi for 24%, Run for 24%, Sai for 7%, and Meifu for 4%.
The Miao people have also lived in Hainan for generations, with a population second only to the Li people. They are widely distributed in the three mountain areas of Wuzhishan, Limushan, and Yajia Daling within the National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest and in their surrounding cities and counties. According to local annals, the Miao ethnic minority entered Hainan between the reigns of Emperor Hongzhi and Emperor Wanli in the Ming Dynasty (about 1501-1573) for being conscripted from Guangxi by the court as soldiers. Later, the troupes were disbanded and settled in Hainan as the aborigines. It's over 400 years up to now. In addition to soldiers recruited to the island by the court, a considerable number of Miao people migrated to Hainan Island to make a living or avoid war. The Miao language belongs to the Yao branch of the Hmong-Mien group of the Sino-Tibetan family. They are widely distributed in Hainan with a unified language and fewer dialect differences.
1. March 3 in the Lunar Calendar
Li and Miao's traditional festivals are mostly related to mankind origin commemoration, nature worship and primitive religious activities, which are of strong ethnic characteristics and traditional religious features in the rainforest. March 3 in the Lunar Calendar represents an important festival for both Li and Miao people.
For the Li ethnic minority, March 3 in the Lunar Calendar is a traditional festival of a "collective carnival" nature, which is mainly characterized by collective singing and free love activities among young men and women. For the origin of this festival, the Tale of Bottle Gourd, an oral literature of the Li ethnic minority, tells such a beautiful legend: in ancient times, mankind encountered a toppling flood disaster, and only a man and a woman overcame it by staying in a big bottle gourd. The bottle gourd drifted with the flood to the uninhabited Hainan Island and got stuck on Wuzhishan. In order to reproduce mankind, the man and the woman got married on March 3 in the Lunar Calendar. Afterwards, the Li people have commemorated their happy marriage and reproduction of the Li ethnic minority in various ways on March 3 of every year in the Lunar Calendar. For the Miao people, March 3 in the Lunar Calendar is a grand festival second only to the Lunar New Year. It is a day for the gathering of brothers, for the reunion of the five Miao clans, and for celebrating the marriage of ancestors and worshiping ancestors and family gods. The Miao people are forbidden to get married in March to show their worship of their ancestors. On March 3 in the Lunar Calendar, every Miao family cook chicken and three-color rice to worship ancestors and pray for peace.
The Li women have a custom of getting tattoos. Written records noted this custom among Yue people (ancestors of Li people) as early as the Han Dynasty. In the old times, tattoos stood for the puberty rite for the Li women, each of whom had to experience this memorable growth process.
The Li tattoos represent the cultural heritage of Li's matriarchal clan society, and the artistic expression of Li's primitive religion - nature worship, ancestor worship and totem worship. The more agreed view on the origin of Li's tattoos is that they are the symbols of blood clan tribes. In his book Remaining Records of Haicha, Gu Jie in the Ming Dynasty wrote that "a Li woman who does not get tattoos is denied the descendant of her ancestors". Li ancestors believed that if a Li person did not wear any specific totem of his/her clan or tribe when alive, it would be difficult for his/her ancestors to identify him/her after his/her death so that he/she would become a homeless wild ghost. In modern times, the tattoo custom of the Li women has faded away, with only a few of the elder Li women still having tattoos.
3. Dachai Dance
Dachai Dance, also known as Bamboo Pole Dance or Firewood Dance, is one of the oldest and most popular dances of the Li ethnic minority. It originated from the funeral activities of the Li to protect corpses, drive away wild animals, frighten ghosts and worship ancestors. According to the Annals of Yazhou written in the reign of Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty, "when a funeral is held... all relatives must carry paper cattle and goat lamps to mourn. They must dance the 'Tiaojizhu'", which refers to Dachai Dance.
Dachai Dance boasts a complete set of dance equipment and moves. When dancing, two long bamboo poles are placed in parallel on the flat ground, on which several small bamboo poles are horizontally erected. Persons hold both ends of the poles and tap the poles up, down, left and right at a certain beat to make a clear sound. A group of bamboo pole dancers dances in the gaps between the bamboo poles to do all kinds of delightful moves. The whole dance scene is so lively with onlookers cheering and laughing one after another.
Dachai Dance embodies sacrifice and auspiciousness, for which the Li people usually start dancing on the day of planting new crops or the Lantern Festival all night long. The Li people are used to using a kind of red wood as the dance pole. Such red wood is considered by the Li people as an auspicious thing that transmits clear sound to heaven due to its lightweight. As such, the dance was also known as Firewood Dance in the old days. Later, the significance of sacrifice was gradually replaced by its own entertainment function. Anyone may have Dachai Dance at any time anywhere. The red wood was also replaced by bamboo pole which is more easily available. As such, the dance is also known as Bamboo Pole Dance.
(III) Traditional Technologies
1. Boat-shaped house
The boat-shaped house is the most traditional house form of the Li and Miao ethnic minorities, and also the house with the most tropical rainforest ethnic characteristics. It's named so because it looks like an inverted canopy. In order to adapt to the humid and rainy tropical rainforest and its environment with snakes, insects, rats, ants and other wild animals, the Li and Miao people drew on the stilt architectural forms of various ethnic minorities in southwestern China and combined them with nest dwelling. They have invented a high-foot stilt building - the high-foot boat-shaped house, which is made of building materials such as wood strips, bamboo, red and white rattans, thatches and sunflower leaves common in the rainforest. The boat-shaped house has gone through three stages including the high-foot boat-shaped house, the low-foot boat-shaped house and the floor boat-shaped house, and then turned into a boat-shaped house with unique characteristics of Hainan rainforest.
In summer, the low-rise boat-shaped house can shelter from the scorching sun, and its circular arch shape may resist frequent typhoons in the tropical typhoon season. The overhead structure can prevent moisture and malaria and block the rain. The thatched roof also has good moisture-proof and heat insulation functions. Therefore, it is very suitable for people living in the humid and muggy rainforest.
The Li's folk tale Princess Yadan tells the origin of the boat house: for violating family rules, Princess Yadan was placed in a boat and exiled to an isolated island. In order to avoid wind and rain and resist wild animals, the Princess cut trees on mountains, made them timber piles, and set the piles on the beach. And then, she put the boat with the bottom facing up on the wooden piles to act as a roof, and covered surrounding areas with thatches. When the boat deck was rotten, she covered it with thatches. This is the origin of the boat house.
2. Bark cloth
The National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest is abundant in trees. The Li people's use of trees is not limited to food, medicinal materials, firewood and building materials. They even make clothes from barks. The Li people used to make and use bark clothes, which is the rudiment of early human clothes. In modern times, some people from the Run Li branch of the Li ethnic minority are still able to make bark clothes and hats. Their history of tree bark cloth can be traced back to the Neolithic Period. The Li's history of "making bark clothes" is seen in many ancient books and records such as Taiping Universe Records in the Song Dynasty, Literature Research in the Yuan Dynasty, and the Liqi Notes in the Qing Dynasty. The clothes are made from barks of broussonetia papyrifera and antiaris toxicaria. They first pat the tree bark to remove the outer skin residue and get the fiber layer, and then soak and dry it with lime (i.e. the ash left after shell burning). The Li's ancestors used such bark fibers to sew clothes, quilts and hats, which were mostly worn by men.
3. Cotton textile
The National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest is characterized by a humid and hot climate and fertile alkaline soil, which is suitable for the growth of kapok. As early as the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, the Li people mastered the skills of rolling seeds out of kapok and spinning clothes with kapok fiber. In the Western Han Dynasty, the exquisite "Guangfu Cloth" woven by the Li people was designated as the "annual offering" to the central court. During the Three Kingdoms Period, the Li people were able to make "colorless spotted cloth" with "jibei". The Li's cotton textile technology was ahead of that in the Central Plains for more than 1,000 years. The cotton textile industry was not been popularized across the country until the Song Dynasty in the 11th century. In this process, Huang Daopo, a famous cotton weaver in the late Song Dynasty and early Yuan Dynasty, played a key role, as she learned and brought the cotton textile skills from the Li women in Hainan back to her hometown Shanghai and promoted the development of China's textile industry.
Kapok used by the Li people to spin cloth was also known as "jibei" in the old times. Su Dongpo wrote a poem when he was relegated to Hainan in the Song Dynasty, recording: "leave over my jibei garment; the sea breeze makes the evening cold". In modern times, island cotton from South America is more used. According to agricultural data, in 1916, Tielugang Agricultural Development Company in Yaxian County successfully introduced island cotton for the first time. This variety boasts the best quality, and is featured by long fiber, fine silk, mercerization, large tension and high yarn yield.
4. Li Brocade
Li brocade represents the traditional spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidery technologies of the Li ethnic minority. It is a combination of cotton textile technology, hemp textile technology and valerian dyeing technology. It can be traced back to nearly 3,000 years ago. The patterns of Li Brocade almost form the unique history book of the Li ethnic minority. The Li's cotton textile industry built a good reputation as early as the Han Dynasty when their "Guangfu Cloth" was designated as the "annual offering". In the Tang and Song Dynasties, the Li ethnic minority could already use five-color yarn to weave Li Brocade with colorful patterns. In the old days then there were no written words, many historical and cultural legends of the Li ethnic minority were presented in the form of Li brocade.
A Li woman learns warp knitting, double-sided embroidery, single-sided jacquard weaving and other textile skills from her mother, and then designs textile patterns only by her rich imagination. According to incomplete statistics, there are more than 100 brocade patterns, which can be roughly divided into the human pattern, the animal pattern, the plant pattern, the geometric pattern, as well as the patterns that reflect daily life and production appliances, natural phenomena and Chinese characters. Figures, animals and plants are the most commonly used brocade patterns.
The Li people are proficient in dyeing skills and using various plants and minerals in the tropical rainforest as dyes to weave and dye clothes. Before modern times, almost all the garments worn by the Li people were self-woven and self dyed. Tie-dyeing is most distinctive among the dyeing techniques of the Li ethnic minority, which was called "jiaoxie" in ancient times. The fabric is made into colorful cloth after ligation, dyeing, drying and folding. The Li has green, black, red and yellow as their main dyeing colors, each with different raw materials and methods used. The dyes used include plant leaves, flowers, bark and tree roots, supplemented by natural mineral pigments.
6. Li bone artifacts
In the Run dialect area of Baisha Li Autonomous County in the National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest, the Li people still retain the traditional bone artifact technology. The rich animal resources in the tropical rainforest are made full use of by the local Li people, who carve the animal bones they get with Li's traditional patterns and make the bones exquisite and diverse daily necessities and decorations, such as bone hairpins, bone combs, powder cartridges, etc. Human-shaped bone hairpin is the most unique among the bone artifacts. The human-shaped bone hairpin is mostly made of a cattle's leg bone, with a human head carved on the side, which is divided into hat decoration, human face, and trunk and legs, and decorated with exquisite geometric patterns, water wave patterns, bird and animal patterns and so on. It is said that the human face on the human-shaped bone hairpin is the image of the ancient tribal leader of the Li ethnic minority. The human-shaped bone hairpin is beautiful and durable, and deeply loved by the Li women. It was used as a love keepsake by the Li ethnic minority in ancient times.
(IV) Food and Medicine
In terms of food culture and medicine, the Li and Miao residents "rely on mountains and waters". Hainan's warm and humid tropical rainforest and abundant animal and plant resources have bred the unique food culture of the Li and Miao ethnic minorities. Among the many traditional foods of the Li and Miao, pickled food boasts the most tropical rainforest characteristics, like fish tea and meat tea. They are the top-grade delicacies used by the Li and Miao people to entertain distinguished guests.
Liquor and tea are indispensable drinks for the Li and Miao in daily life. The Li and Miao people love to entertain guests with wine and have developed their own liquor cultures. The common self-made liquors include Shanlan Liquor, Sweet Potato Liquor, Sugarcane Liquor, Pumpkin Liquor, etc. Among them, Shanlan Liquor is a very important liquor in the traditions of the Li and Miao ethnic minorities. Nearly every Li and Miao household used to prepare Shanlan Liquor for guests, festivals, weddings, banquets, funerals and religious activities. Tea is also a necessity for the Li and Miao people. In addition to normal teas, there are also Kuding Tea, Partridge Tea, Parasitic Tea with local characteristics.
In order to adapt to the life in rainforest, the Li and Miao people has accumulated rich experience in the long-term struggle against diseases, and developed a systematic medical system, which is an important part of China's traditional medicine.
1. Fish tea
Technically, fish tea is not a kind of tea, but a sweet and sour and weird dish made of fish and rice by the Li and Miao ethnic minorities. The fish they use is usually small fish commonly seen in streams near the village, such as thin-tailed white beetle, liniparhomaloptera disparis, tilapia, etc. Fish tea is divided into wet fish tea and dry fish tea. For the dry fish tea, they wash and chop the raw fish, drain its moisture, mash the fried rice, add a little salt, mix the raw fish and rice, and then put them into a sealed pottery pot for more than 2 months. For the wet fish tea, they mix the cooked dry rice with raw fish and salt, put them into a sealed pottery pot for 10 odd days. Fish tea taken out of the pot can be eaten immediately. It tastes sour, delicious and fresh. Fish tea, like stinky tofu, is a hardcore food. It is often difficult to accept when you first taste it, but once you get fond of it, it turns difficult to refuse.
2. Three-color rice
Three-color rice is a special ceremonial food for both Li and Miao ethnic minorities. They dye Shanlan glutinous rice black with liquidambar formosana, yellow with ginger, and red with chelidonium majusin, and then put the rice in a special single log steamer. Three-color rice was originally five-color rice: red, yellow, blue, white, and black. Plant juice is used as a natural pigment in Shanlan glutinous rice.
3. Bamboo rice
The Li and Miao people cut off a section of bamboo, put an appropriate amount of Shanlan glutinous rice and water, roast it in the fire, and when it is done, they break the bamboo to take out the rice. This is the famous "bamboo fragrant rice". The fragrant glutinous rice with pork mixed with fragrant glutinous rice and an appropriate amount of salt and roasted in a bamboo tube is much more delicious, which is a delicacy for the Li ethnic minority to entertain distinguished guests.
4. Shanlan Liquor
Shanlan Liquor, also known as glutinous rice liquor and sweet liquor, is called "biang" in the Li's language and "bi ang" in the Qi dialect. It is made by traditional natural fermentation with Shanlan glutinous rice they grow. Shanlan Liquor has a low alcohol content and tastes mellow and sweet. The Li and Miao people take Shanlan Liquor as a tonic to entertain guests. Shanlan Liquor is also often cooked together with eggs for pregnant women or those with physical deficiency to eat.
5. Tea leaves
The tropical rainforest in Hainan is one of the origins of tea. Tea trees several meters high are easily seen in the rainforest. The Li and Miao people in the mountainous areas of Central Hainan have known how to make and taste tea for a long time. Shuiman Tea is the variety that built its reputation the earliest. Shuiman Tea is named because it is produced in Shuiman Township at the south foot of Wuzhishan Mountain. It generally refers to the green tea made by hand from wild large tea leaves collected by the local Li people in Shuiman Township. It tastes thick and refreshing, with a clear and long-lasting aroma and lucid tea water. In ancient times, Shuiman Tea was once a kind of offerings to the imperial court because of its high quality and limited output. In addition to Shuiman Tea, Wuzhishan Black Tea, Baisha Green Tea, and Tianchi Yunwu Tea from Jianfengling are also well-known tea brands around the National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest.
6. Partridge Tea
Partridge Tea is mainly produced in the Wuzhishan area of the National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest and Wanning City. It is a kind of substitute tea. The Li people in the rainforest pick the fresh leaves of wild paulownia of euphorbiaceae, dry them in a cool place, and wrap them into balls to make Partridge Tea. It tastes refreshing, thirst-quenching, and summer heat relieving.
7. Kuding Tea
Hainan Kuding Tea takes Ilex macrophylla of ileaceae as its raw materials, which is mainly produced in the Wuzhishan area of National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest. It is called "dang" by the local Li people. The local Li people believe that wild Kuding Tea has a strong medical and health care effect, for which they boil it to treat cold and other diseases.
8. Wild vegetables
The Li and Miao ethnic minorities have no tradition of growing vegetables, so most of the vegetables they need are collected from the wild. They take sickles and waist baskets when going out, so that they can collect wild vegetables and take them home for consumption. Leigong bamboo shoots, Leigong roots, Geming vegetables and cauliflowers are all local delicacies. Many wild vegetables have health care functions. For example, chicken soup with epicauta, millettia root or radix fici simplicissimae is good for heath.
9. Li and Miao's medicine
The National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest is abundant in plants, animals, and minerals. The Li and Miao people have summarized characteristic treatment methods in their long-term struggle with diseases, especially for treating poisonous snake bite, traumatic injury, fracture, malaria and other diseases related to the rainforest life. These medicines and therapies are of distinct rainforest ethnic and tropical regional characteristics of Hainan. For instance, many plants used in Li medicine and Miao medicine are only unique to Hainan, such as torreya grandis, dragon blood tree and dalbergia odorifera.
The Miao people who live in the tropical rainforest and mountain areas in Hainan have accumulated rich medicinal knowledge on wild plants in the rainforest. They are good at using herbs to treat injuries and diseases, such as bone fractures, spear wounds, arrow wounds, hemorrhoids, vomiting, eye diseases, abscesses, parasites, etc. In terms of treatment methods, they have oral administration and external application, as well as fire moxibustion and scraping. In the past, most Miao households were able to do the fire moxibustion - they pour lard on the wick, ignite it and cauterize the specific parts of the patient's body.
The Li medicine experienced sufficient self-development and explorations in the early stage, and it is inseparable from traditional witchcraft. Disease prevention and treatment in the Li medicine are mainly done in the form of religious ritual, supplemented by herbs. As early as the Song and Yuan Dynasties, the Li people living in the rainforest had grasped a wealth of herbal knowledge. They understood the efficacy, nature, taste, collection, processing and classification of various plants in the tropical rainforest. Later, the Li medicine absorbed a lot of medical experience from traditional Chinese medicine in the process of communicating with Chinese culture. The Li medicine boasts a variety of treatment methods. Its main diagnostic methods are .
viewing, listening, questioning and feeling the pulse. Its medication can be divided into decoction, medicinal liquor, powder agent, mashing agent, etc. What's more, it also pays great attention to adjusting the rest, diet and mental state of patients when treating.
It should be noted that the Li and Miao people in Hainan attach great importance to the sustainable utilization and development of natural rainforest resources in the process of using herbal medicine. In the animism of the Li and Miao ethnic minorities, everything has a spirit. Therefore, they never carry out a destructive collection of herbs, and never dig roots if they can use leaves. The roots, stems, leaves, branches and fruits of fresh plants are generally collected and used at any time. They never collect and hoard them on a large scale. For plants with a large amount of use, such as Yizhi, they mostly plant them at the front and back of their houses.
(V) Intangible Cultural Heritage
The Li and Miao people who have lived in the mountains of Central Hainan for generations have created splendid and unique traditional cultures. However, in recent decades, with the rapid development of the society and economy, some traditional cultures and skills are on the verge of extinction and require immediate protection. In the National Park of Hainan Tropical Rainforest, there are many traditional cultures with national characteristics that have been included in the intangible cultural heritage lists at all levels. Such heritages have witnessed the process of people living with the tropical rainforest, acting as the most representative cultural mark in the tropical rainforest of Hainan.
In 2009, the "traditional spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidery technologies of the Li ethnic minority" were included in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding by UNESCO. Such spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidery technologies allow the Li women to only rely on their rich imagination and understanding of traditional styles to design textile patterns. In the days without a written language, these patterns were the recorders of Li's history, cultural legends, religious rituals, taboos, beliefs, traditions and folk customs. Li Brocade is indispensable from Li's important social and cultural occasions. As the carrier of the Li culture, the traditional textile technology of Li Brocade is also indispensable from Li's cultural heritage.
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