Off the wire
Commentary: Pioneering for new chapter of China-France ties  • Brazilian gov't backs off on relaxing rules on public-sector debt  • Gold price opens higher in Hong Kong  • Swallowable pill-sized microcomputer to monitor gut health passes first human trials  • Hong Kong stocks open 0.11 pct higher  • First same-sex Australian couples legally wed  • Across China: AI enhances photo app's spotless reputation  • Barcelona ink deal for Colombian defender Yerry Mina  • Four things we learned from Spain's matchday 18  • 1st LD: S.Korea, DPRK kick off high-level talks in Panmunjom  
You are here:   Features/

Carnivals between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake

China Today,January 09, 2018 Adjust font size:

Local Deity Worship

Bai traditional society is one of multiple religious beliefs. People practice Buddhism, Taoism, and also worship local deities. The latter constitutes the specific religious beliefs of the Bai people as a whole.

Local deities are regarded by local residents as patron gods of their homes and villages. They are entrusted with bringing officials good careers, farmers good harvests, craftsmen excellent works, and merchants successful businesses.

Patron gods can be both human and immortal. Usually each village has its own, but sometimes one deity is jointly worshiped by several. Animals or other things that have close associations with the villages can become their deities, such as holy mountains, animal spirits, Buddhist and Taoist gods, Confucian models, or characters from folk tales. They can be members of royal families, of the nobility, heroes, or civilians of the Bai, Han or other ethnic groups.

For example, the Benzhu Temple in Qingdong Village, Xizhou Town is the most typical and famous one. It is referred to by local people as the central emperor temple. The patron god “the king of 500 gods” tops the pantheon of local gods worshiped by the Bai people, commanding the local patron gods of 71 nearby villages. It is said that the king of 500 gods is named Duan Zongbang, a remote ancestor of the Dali royal family. As prime minister of Nanzhao, a local regime in ancient China, he was dispatched to help the king of Burma defeat the invading army from the Lion kingdom (an old named adopted by Chinese for today’s Sri Lanka). He was later conferred the title of one of the 18 meritorious statesmen.

Erhe Memorial Temple enshrines Duan Chicheng, the python slayer. According to legend, in 820 a malevolent python found its way to the Erhe River and terrorized local inhabitants with its voracious appetite for people and animals, and by causing waves that submerged their crops. A brave and resourceful young Bai man, wielding twin broadswords, allowed himself to be swallowed by the python. By killing the monster from within, he perished with it. To commemorate the python slayer, he was made the guardian deity of Erhe River.

Bai’s patron god belief is an integral and systematic religion encompassing ancestor worship, nature worship, hero worship, and totemism. Every patron god has its own festival – the temple fair. In daily life, people not only offer up sacrifices during festivals and major events, but also pray for their god’s blessings before weddings, funerals, and long journeys.

Raosanling connotes the Bai belief in patron gods. This is evident in the prayers to them for good weather and a golden harvest before they plant rice, a staple food of the Bai people. Its dancing, singing, and sacrificial activities have made Raosanling a unique cultural phenomenon that has evolved through millennium-long cultural cohesion and integration. It embodies history, religion, folklore, art, business, and much more. It is therefore a concentrated reflection of the Bai people’s common psychological quality, and has become an event that most symbolically signifies the Bai culture. 

<  1  2  3