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|c. 8 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Tai Lü, Tai Nüa, Tai Dam, Mandarin Chinese, Lao, Thai|
|Theravada Buddhism and Dai folk religion |
The Dai people (Kam Mueang: ᩱᨴᩭ; Thai: ไท; Shan: တႆး [tai˥˩]; Tai Nüa: ᥖᥭᥰ, [tai˥], Chinese: 傣族; pinyin: Dǎizú) are one of several ethnic groups living in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture (both in southern Yunnan, China), but by extension, the term can apply to groups in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar when Dai is used to mean specifically Tai Yai, Lue, Chinese Shan, Tai Dam, Tai Khao or even Tai in general. For other names, please see the table below.
The Dai people form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, and are closely related to the Lao and Thai people who form a majority in Laos and Thailand. Originally, the Tai, or Dai, lived closely together in modern Yunnan Province until political chaos and wars in the north at the end of the Tang and Song Dynasty and various nomadic peoples prompted some to move further south into modern Laos then Thailand. As with many other officially recognized ethnic groups in China (See Gaoshan and Yao), the term Dai at least within Chinese usage is an umbrella term and as such has no equivalent in Tai languages who have only more general terms for 'Tai peoples in general' (e.g., Tai Lue: tai˥˩, but this term refers to all Dai people, not including Zhuang) and 'Tai people in China' (e.g., Thai: ชาวไทในจีน'), both of which include the Zhuang for example which is not the case in the Chinese; and more specific terms, as shown in the table below. Therefore[dubious ] the word Dai, like with the aforementioned Yao, is a Han-Chinese cultural concept which has now been adopted by other languages such as English, French and German (see respective Wikipedias). As a solution in the Thai language, however, as in English, the term Tai Lue can be used to mean Dai, despite referring to other groups as in the table below. This is because the two main groups actually bear the same name, both meaning 'Northern Tai' (lue and nüa are cognate).
Although they are officially recognized as a single people by the Chinese state, these Tai people form several distinct cultural and linguistic groups. The two main languages of the Dai are Dai Lü (Sibsongbanna Dai) and Dai Nüa (Daihong Dai); two other written languages used by the Dai are Tày Pong and Tai Dam. They all are Tai languages, a group of related languages that includes Thai, Lao, and Zhuang, and part of the Tai–Kadai language family. Various dialects of the Tai/Dai language family are spoken from Assam, India to Taiwan and Shanxi Province, China. The Dai people follow their traditional religion as well as Theravada Buddhism, and maintain similar customs and festivals (such as Songkran) to the other Tai-speaking peoples and more broadly, in regards to some cultural aspects, to the unrelated dominant ethnic groups of Myanmar, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. They are among the few natives groups in China who nominally practice the Theravada school of Buddhism. The term of Tai in China is also used sometimes to shows that the majority of peoples who subsumed under "Dai" nationality are mainly speakers of Thais languages (i.e. Southwestern Tai languages)
Tai groups and names
|Chinese||Pinyin||Tai Lü||Tai Nüa||Thai||Conventional||Area(s)|
|tai˥˩ lɯː˩||ไทลื้อ||Tai Lü, Tai Lue, Lue||Sipsongpanna Tai Autonomous Prefecture, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam|
|ไทเหนือ, ไทใต้คง, ไทใหญ่||Tai Nüa, Northern Tai, Upper Tai, Chinese Shan, Tai Yai||Dehong (德宏); Burma|
|傣擔||Dǎidān||tai˥˩ dam˥||ไทดำ, ลาวโซ่ง, ไททรงดำ,||Tai Dam, Black Tai, Tai Lam, Lao Song Dam*, Tai Muan, Tai Tan, Black Do, Jinping Dai, Tai Den, Tai Do, Tai Noir, Thai Den||Jinping (金平), Laos, Thailand|
|傣繃||Dǎibēng||tai˥˩pɔːŋ˥||ไทเบง, ไทมาว, ไทใหญ่||Tay Pong||Ruili (瑞丽), Gengma (耿马),|
along the Mekong
|傣端||Dǎiduān||tai˥˩doːn˥||ไทขาว||White Tai, Tày Dón, Tai Khao, Tai Kao, Tai Don, Dai Kao, White Dai, Red Tai, Tai Blanc, Tai Kaw, Tày Lai, Thai Trang||Jinping (金平)|
|傣雅||Dǎiyǎ||tai˥˩jaː˧˥||ไทหย่า||Tai Ya, Tai Cung, Cung, Ya||Xinping (新平), Yuanjiang (元江)|
along the Red River
|* lit. "Lao [wearing] black trousers"|
Peoples classified as Dai in China speak the following Southwestern Tai languages.
- Tai Lü language, Dǎilèyǔ, 傣仂语
- Tai Nüa language, Déhóng Dǎiyǔ, 德宏傣语 (Shan language)
- Tai Dam language, Dǎinǎyǔ, 傣哪语; Dǎidānyǔ, 傣担语
- Tai Ya language, Dǎiyǎyǔ, 傣雅语
- Tai Hongjin language, 红金傣语
Yunnan (1998:150) lists 4 major Tai language varieties.
- Tai Lü language 傣泐方言: 400,000 speakers in Sipsongpanna, Menglian County, Jinggu County, Jiangcheng County, etc.
- Tai Nüa language 傣纳方言: 400,000 speakers in Dehong, Gengma, Shuangjiang, Tengchong, Baoshan, Longling, Changning, Cangyuan, Lancang, Zhenkang, Jingdong, etc.
- Tai Rui 傣端方言: 40,000 speakers in Jinping, Maguan, Malipo counties, etc.
- Tianxin 田心方言: 20,000 speakers in Wuding, Luquan, Yongren, Dayao counties, etc. Representative dialect: Tianxin 田心, Wuding County
The original areas of the Tai Lue included both sides of the Mekong River in the Sipsongpanna. According to the Tai Lue, there were five city-states on the east bank and six on the west, which with Jinghong formed twelve rice field divisions with all twelve having another 32 small provinces. These were:
On the west bank - Rung, Ha, Sae, Lu, Ong, Luang, Hun, Phan, Chiang Choeng, Hai, Chiang Lo and Mang; On the east bank - La, Bang, Hing, Pang, La, Wang, Phong, Yuan, Bang and Chiang Thong (present-day Luang Prabang). (These names are transcribed according to their Thai Language pronunciations not their Tai Lue(Dai) pronunciations. If transcribed according to their Tai Lue pronunciations they would be as follows: Hung, Ha, Sae, Lu, Ong, Long, Hun, Pan, Cheng Choeng, Hai, Cheng Lo, Mang, La, Bang, Hing, Pang, La, Wang, Pong, Yon, Bang and Cheng Tong)
Some portions of these Tai Lue either voluntarily moved or were forcibly herded from these city-states around one to two hundred years ago, arriving in countries of present-day Burma, Laos and Thailand.
The staple food of dai nationality is rice. Dehong area eat japonica rice, Xishuangbanna and other places love to eat glutinous rice.
Bamboo rice is a famous snack of Dai nationality. It is made by putting glutinous rice in a fragrant bamboo tube, soaking with water for 15 minutes and baking with fire.
Pineapple purple rice has unique characteristics, its flavor is sweet and delicious, and has the effect of replenishing blood and moistening lungs.
Raw, fresh, sour,and spicy are the characteristics of dai cuisine. Dai people believe that eating sour heart can make eyes bright, help digestion, and also help relieve heat and heat. Sweet can remove fatigue. Spicy can increase appetite. Acid is the most delicious flavor in Dai cuisine, and all dishes and snacks are mainly sour, such as sour bamboo shoots, sour pork.
Tai Lue in Thailand
In Thailand there are Tai Lue in many provinces of the upper regions of Northern Thailand; these provinces are:
- Chiang Rai: Mae Sai, Chiang Khong and Chiang Saen districts (a portion fled to Chiang Rung at the outbreak of the Ayuthian-Burman War)
- Chiang Mai: Samoeng and Doi Saket districts
- Nan: Tha Wang Pha, Pua, Chiang Klang and Thung Chang districts (the greatest number, fleeing from the Saiyaburi and Sipsongpanna regions)
- Phayao: Chiang Muan and Chiang Kham districts (many in number)
- Lampang: Mueang Lampang and Mae Tha districts
- Lamphun: Mueang Lamphun and Ban Thi districts
The festivals of the Dai people are mostly related to religious activities. The main festivals include door closing festival, door opening festival and water splashing festival.
The closing festival is fixed on September 15 in the Dai calendar (the middle of July in the Gregorian calendar). The opening door festival, the time fixed in the Dai calendar on December 15 (the middle of October in the Gregorian calendar). In the two festivals on the same day, all of people will go to the Buddhist temple to hold ritual activities. People will offer foods, flowers and coins to the Buddha. The three months between the closing door festival and the opening door festival are the "close" time of the year, the most religious time of the year.
The water-sprinkling festival is a traditional festival of the Dai people, meaning the New Year of June. The time is in the late June or early July of the Dai calendar (the middle of April in the Gregorian calendar). Held about 10 days after the Qingming festival, it symbolizes "the most beautiful day". The holiday usually lasts three days. In the early morning of the festival, the people of the Dai village went to the Buddhist temple to clean the figure of Buddha. After the ceremony of the Buddhist temple, the young men and women pour water on each other. Then groups of people marched around, sprinkling pedestrians as a blessing. These represent blessings.
Ethnic Tensions in China: The 2008 Menglian Incident
Dai rubber farmers in Yunnan have repeatedly protested against alleged cases of discrimination and economical exploitation by the Mengma Rubber Company, The most serious incident happened in Menglian County on July 19, 2008, when the police confronted a protest by some 400 Dai farmers, killing two of them. Different interpretations of the incident were offered by the Chinese authorities, who reported that the police officers had to defend themselves against a violent aggression, and by international human rights organizations, which denounced police brutality.
Dai containers (silver). Metalwork in the Yunnan Provincial Museum.
Dai gourd pipes, also known as the hulusi, in the Yunnan Nationalities Museum
Dai bamboo house. Tools and utensils in the Yunnan Nationalities Museum, Kunming, Yunnan, China.
- "Ethnic Groups". China.org.cn.
- Haimei Shen. Risk Society, the Predicaments of Folk Religion and Experience of Modernity: The Guardian Spirits in the Mandi Dailue Ethnic Society of Xishuangbanna. China: An International Journal, Vol. 11, No. 2
- Yunnan Gazetteer Commission [云南省地方志编纂委员会] (ed). 1998. Yunnan Provincial Gazetteer, Vol. 59: Minority Languages Orthographies Gazetteer [云南省志. 卷五十九, 少数民族语言文字志]. Kunming: Yunnan People's Press [云南人民出版社].
- Yunnan Province, China: Conflict between Mengma Rubber Company and farmers, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, n.d.; Ten Years Later: Remembering the Menglian Incident of July 19, 2008, Bitter Winter, July 17, 2018.
- Zhu, Liangwen (1992). The Dai: Or the Tai and Their Architecture & Customs in South China. Bangkok, Thailand, and Kunming, Yunnan, China: D D Books and The Science and Technology Press of Yunnan.
- Les Dai de Chine: Zhongguo de Dai zu (in French), Jean A. Berlie, 136 pages, Paris, France, published in 1990.
- Photos related to Dai Theravada Buddhism
- Site including information on some endangered Tai scripts
- Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dai people.|