return to kunming & an afternoon at yunnan nationalities village

Saturday, February 14:  This morning, we decide to forgo the return bus to Kunming.  Instead, we pay 500 yuan (~$80) to hire a driver to drive us back.  It turns out our driver is a middle-aged Chinese woman accompanied by her husband or boyfriend; it seems they’re going on a day outing to Kunming.  Lucky for them, we pay for their day trip, and even though it costs us a lot, it allows us to avoid the hassle of dealing with Chinese buses and the East Kunming bus station.  A win-win situation.

It takes the couple quite a long time to find our hotel as they are relying on a GPS system, which they can’t seem to follow properly.  Several arguments between them ensue when they can’t agree on a direction, and we try to signal to them which direction they should follow, which is clearly obvious on the GPS!

Our hotel is near Dianchi Lake, which is supposed to be quite nice, but we really never see the entire lake.  The couple drops us at our hotel, The Dianchi Garden Hotel and Spa, which has lovely grounds. However, there is no heat in the room, making for a freezing last day in Kunming.

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Our room at Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Our room at Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

We have a Chinese lunch in the “Western” restaurant (there is no Western food on the menu) overlooking this atrium.

The atrium at Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

The atrium at Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

From our hotel, we walk 400 meters to the Yunnan Nationalities Museum.  We have to walk through a touristy village before we enter the museum, which turns out to be a kind of theme park, much like Disneyland but with no rides.  Alex is still looking for a miniature container to take back as a gift for a friend, and I buy yet another scarf, one of too many I’ve bought on this trip!

Entrance to Yunnan Nationalities Village

Entrance to Yunnan Nationalities Village

The first place we come to is a Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery.  According to a sign at the park: “After propagating to the Tibetan-inhabited regions during the 7th century, Buddhism gradually established the Tibetan-language inherited religious system known as “Tibetan Buddhism,” which was passed down to later generations. Owing to dissimilar channels of inheritance, Tibetan Buddhism branched into different schools, which include the Ningma (Red Sect), the Geju (White Sect), the Gelu (Yellow Sect), and the Saga (Hua Sect). To integrate the cultural essence of different sects of Tibetan Buddhism, two “living Buddhas” were invited to preside over the construction, consecration and opening of the Buddhist shrine, which was bestowed with the name ‘Fusonglin Lamasery.’ Each year, two lamas are dispatched to the lamasery to host the Buddhist rites, making it a Tibetan Buddhist shrine in the true sense to help visitors learn about the religion and Buddhist culture of the Tibetan-inhabited areas.”

Prayer flags at the Buddhist temple at the Yunnan Nationalities Village

Prayer flags at the Buddhist temple at the Yunnan Nationalities Village

Prayer wheels at the Buddhist temple at Yunnan Nationalities Village

Prayer wheels at the Buddhist temple at Yunnan Nationalities Village

More prayer flags

More prayer flags

Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

Buddhist museum

Buddhist museum

Buddhist museum

Buddhist museum

Prayer wheels

Prayer wheels

Buddhist prayer flags at the Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

Buddhist prayer flags at the Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

Sadly, we’re not allowed to take photographs inside this beautiful lamasery.  However, when I notice a Chinese guy sneaking a photo, I take one sneakily too.  Not only does it come out a total blur, but I get yelled at as well. 🙂

a peek inside the Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

a peek inside the Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery

Prayer flags

Prayer flags

Beasts of burden

Beasts of burden

After leaving the lamasery, Alex finds a place where it’s possible to zip-line over the lake, which he is thrilled to experience.

Alex zip-lines across the lake

Alex zip-lines across the lake

Alex flying

Alex flying

the young men operating the zip-line

the young men operating the zip-line

At Sun and Moon Square, a sign tells us that the four totem poles on the square symbolize the “white stupa” in the Hani ancestors’ village “Reluopuchu,” which the Hani legends claim to be the ethnic origin of the Hani minority. The totem poles are depicted with patterns depicting the Hani history of birth, village construction, homeland-defending battles, tortuous migration, and creation of the terraced paddy field culture, whereas the patterns on the relief sculpture wall vividly portray the classical Hani legends and the Hani mythological system.

The Sun & Moon Square

The Sun & Moon Square

At Sun & Moon Square

At Sun & Moon Square

Totems

Totems

Totem carvings

Totem carvings

Totems

Totems

Building on the grounds

Building on the grounds

Craftsman at Yunnan Nationalities Village

Craftsman at Yunnan Nationalities Village

At the entrance to another village at the museum, we find this information: All De’ang Minority people worship Theravada Buddhism, which is commonly referred to as the “Little Vehicle Buddhism.”  It is common practice for the De’ang people to build a Buddhist temple in every village they inhabit which is locally called “the scripture-reading house.”  

According to the De’ang custom, any stranger entering the De’ang village must first go to the temple to pay tribute to the Buddha, by which the visitor shows esteem for the De’ang religion. The Buddhist hall normally consists of three terraces, the first of which is the seat of the top Buddhist disciple who has converted to Buddhism for years, the second terrace is the seat of married males, and the third, the seat of women and children.

De'ang Minority Buddhist Temple

De’ang Minority Buddhist Temple

At the De'ang Minority Buddhist Temple

At the De’ang Minority Buddhist Temple

De'ang Minority Buddhist Temple

De’ang Minority Buddhist Temple

After leaving the De’ang Village, we come across this poor elephant who looks very unhappy.  Alex especially is upset by the elephant’s apparent mistreatment by his handlers.

an unhappy elephant

an unhappy elephant

According to information at the entrance to another village: “With a population numbering 130,000, the Jingpo minority people mainly inhabit areas in Yunnan’s Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture.  The Jingpo people worship the primitive religion which claims “all things on earth have souls,” believes in the existence of ghosts and gods, and esteems the Jingpo ancestors. The most important annual celebration of the Jingpo people is the spectacular Munao Zongge Festival, which normally falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month.  When this festival comes, the Jingpo folks form long queues to dance around the tall mascot boards known as the ‘Munao Shidong.’ The number of participants dancing the grandest Munao Zongge Dance even added up to tens of thousands, and for this reason the event has won the name of ‘dance of ten thousand dancers.'”

In Yunnan Nationalities Village, “the Jingpo Village occupies 15 mu of land, on which are constructed diversified kinds of spacious houses and the exquisite, magnificent ‘headman’s mansion.’ Architectures of the village are focused on portraying structural features and layout patterns of the Jingpo-style housing, which could be represented by the ganlan-style houses and the “inverted T-shaped houses.”  The tall “Munao Shidong” boards erected in the center of the square are decorated with patterns and carvings, which symbolize Jingpo people’s will to keep united and forge ahead, as well as their brave and steadfast personalities.”

Costumes in the Jingpo Village

Costumes in the Jingpo Village

The Munao Shidong consists of “4 Shidong poles with which the Jingpo people worship the solar god. The top of the two poles in the middle are painted with sun-shaped patterns which embody males, whereas the tops of the two poles on both sides are painted with moon-shaped patterns which represent females.  The sky-pointed lines painted on the top of the right “lunar Shidong pole” suggest the channels through which humans communicate with heaven and the crossed swords between the two “solar Shidong poles” signify the industrious and brave virtues of the Jingpo people. The S-shaped pattern formed by the Shidong poles represents the dancing steps by which the Jingpo ancestor Nenggong Kangjia led his followers to dance the Munao Zongge, and the hardships the Jingpo ancestors suffered in their southward migration.”

The Munao Shidong

The Munao Shidong

costumed characters at Munao Shidong

costumed characters in the Jingpo Village

A girl drying some kind of food

A girl drying some kind of food

alley of lanterns

alley of lanterns

lake at Yunnan Nationalities Village

lake at Yunnan Nationalities Village

Dainchi Lake at Yunnan Nationalities Village

Dainchi Lake at Yunnan Nationalities Village

After all our walking, Alex and I are fizzling out.  Like all Chinese parks, this one is huge and sprawling.  Everything is always done on a grand scale in China, except the toilets.

We come upon a Yi Village and find this information at the entrance:  Numbering 4.71 million, the Yi minority is Yunnan’s largest minority group in terms of population and areas of distribution.  The Yi people mostly live in compact communities along the Jinsha River and Yuanjiang River reaches, or in the hinterland of the Ailao Mountain and Wuliang Mountain.  A minority group keen on singing and dancing, the Yi people are extremely well-known for their dage, tiaoye, dasanxian (large 3-stringed guitar), and diejiao dances. Torch Festival is the Yi people’s biggest annual celebration that shows the most distinctive ethnic minority features. 

Major parts of the Yi Village include the relief sculpture wall showing three tigers and the tiger-head figure representing the Neizushi or the founder of the Yi religion, all of which symbolize the “tiger- and eagle-worshiping” culture of the Yi minority people. The totem poles on the Solar Calendar Square are richly decorated with imageries of the sun, tiger, fire and the Eight Diagrams, around which are 10 moon-shaped sculptures that face different directions. On the outer circumference of the square are stone carvings of the 12 shengxiao (12 animals that represent the 12 Earthly Branches, used to symbolize the year in which a person is born).  

Tiger sculpture wall in the Yi village

Tiger sculpture wall in the Yi village

The Tiger Head figure

The Tiger Head figure

I find a description of the Solar Calendar:  The Solar Calendar divides a year into five seasons. Each season has two months; one is male and the other is female. Each month has 36 days; a year has 10 months. And in a year, there are 5-6 other “New Year celebrating days.” It is simple and easy to remember. In the Solar Calendar year there are carved stone statues for the twelve animals symbolizing the year in which a person is born and ten “solar-lunar balls” which symbolize the source of life. In the center is the totem pillar which the Yi minority people worship.

Solar Calendar Square

Solar Calendar Square

Since I was born in 1955 and Alex was born in 1991, we share the sheep symbol.

The sheep

The sheep

Inside of the Tiger Head sits Founder Bimo. According to a placard beside the sculpture: “‘Bimo’ is the transliteration of a Yi language term in which ‘bi’ means ‘chanting scriptures’ and ‘mo’ means an ‘elder with profound learning.’ For the Yi people, Bimos are priests who not only preside over ceremonies, prayer-saying and sacrifice-offering rites, but also sort out and teach the Yi language and author and hand-copy Yi language classics and literature. The Yi people believe Bimos have special talents to communicate with gods and ghosts, offer guidance to earthly things, command people’s souls and manage culture. Bimos play a vitally important role in the Yi people’s activities, including births, weddings, funerals, disease-treatment, festivals, hunting and farming.

“Legend has it that the Yi-minority language was invented by Founder Bimo.  The Bimo statue enshrined here has shown Yi people’s folk customs such as esteeming knowledge and worshiping the eagle and tiger.”

Founder Bimo

Founder Bimo

We also wander around and find a village fashioned after buildings we saw in Dali, with paintings on the walls.

Model of Dali homes

Model of Dali homes

And we find a model of the Three Pagodas of Dali; we saw the real thing in Dali.

Models of the Three Pagodas of Dali

Models of the Three Pagodas of Dali

After this, we feel we can’t walk another step, except that we have to walk back to the entrance to the museum and then the 400 meters back to our hotel.  Oh dear.

Prayer flags

Prayer flags

It’s a long haul, but we finally make it back to the hotel where we eat a dinner of egg rolls and a shrimp and pepper stir-fry. Then we take a little walk around the grounds.

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Dianchi Garden Hotel & Spa

Tomorrow at around noon, Alex will fly from Kunming via Beijing back to Virginia.  At around the same time, I will fly onward to Mandalay, Myanmar.  Since I don’t want to haul all my winter clothes around in the 90+ degree heat of Myanmar, I pack some of my winter stuff into a duffel I have brought along just for that purpose.  Alex will take it to the U.S. with him tomorrow.  Luckily, that will lighten my burden a little.  It was tough packing for this holiday because I had to pack cold weather and hot weather clothing.

There’s nothing much to do at the hotel, and we’re both exhausted from all our walking, so we go to bed quite early, shivering under the comforters in our non-heated room.

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Categories: Asia, China, Dainty Garden Hotel & Spa, Kunming, Travel, Yunnan Nationalities Museum, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “return to kunming & an afternoon at yunnan nationalities village

  1. I want one of those totems!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  2. That poor miserable elephant!! If only they could will themselves to die so they would not have to suffer decades of abuse and loneliness. So upsetting, I know how Alex must have felt.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very informational blogging. Thank you! Do the hotels in these remote regions have western style toilets? Also, hope you were no where close to feeling the recent earthquake. Tragic!

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    • Hi Vivian. Thanks, I’m glad you like my information. As you know, it’s a lot of work to write that stuff. All the hotels I’ve stayed in have had western style toilets. But not the public restrooms!!

      Luckily I was nowhere near that horrible earthquake. I have been to Nepal though, and have friends there, so I’ve been very saddened by the whole thing. So tragic, you’re right.

      By the way, I just went to Shanghai this weekend. It’ll be a while before I’ll have time to post about it though.

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  4. How dreadful that they treat elephants badly – though I’m not surprised. The totems are fascinating and by the way I’ve just spent 3 days in Barcelona and bought 4 scarves 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scarves from Barcelona!! I love scarves from anywhere, but especially anything from Barcelona! I bought several skirts there that I adore to this day!! I’d love to see them. Did you have fun in Barcelona??? 🙂

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  5. The lamasery looks fascinating, Cathy. Great shots! Isn’t Buddhism a colourful and beautiful religion? I wish I knew more about it (but I’m learning, via your blog 🙂 ) Even I was exhausted by the end of this day! Was Alex glad to get home to ‘sanity’ and Western living? You wrote somewhere that you’d have to ask for his impressions.
    Farewell hugs (for now) xx

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    • Thanks so much, Jo; that lamasery was fascinating. Buddhism really is such a colorful religion, and it seems so different in each country. Wait till you see the Myanmar style! I really am getting worn out from all my travels, Jo, and I think I may just have to stay put for much of the rest of my time here. After the last three trips every other weekend, first to Hong Kong, then to Xi’an, and finally this past weekend to Shanghai, I’m wiped out! Alex was definitely happy to get home to sanity and Western living. I should ask him for his impressions, but I still haven’t done it yet! Hugs, hope you’re having fun in Poland. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I feel 3 sizes bigger after all that cake, Cathy, but the family are all really lovely. My head was often spinning with trying to understand, but I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to be there. 🙂

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      • Hi Jo, glad you made it back safely. I’m sure you’re still as thin and elegant as ever. You’re lucky to be tall like you are; you can get away with eating a lot of cake! So you can understand some Polish?

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      • Some 🙂 I recognise lots of words, Cathy, but I can’t always make sense of them. We expect to be back there for a wedding in September so hopefully I’ll do better then.

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  6. This post is so colourful and cheerful (except for the poor elephant). Love the images. – Suzan –

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  7. There is so much to see I can understand you being worn out by the end of the day. So many colourful photos and so much interesting detail.

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