Dai Ethnic Group
Updated: 2012-08-10 14:50
The Dai ethnic group, which numbers 1,158,989, is distributed throughout the Dai Autonomous Region and the Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in Xishuangbanna in the southern part of Yunnan province. In the past, they were called 'Baiyue', meaning a vast living area. Therefore, they have established a close relationship with ethnic groups like the Zhuang, Dong, Shui, Bouyei and Li, who are said to be the descendants of the Dai people.
The Dai language belongs to the Zhuang-Dai branch of the Zhuang-Dong group of Sino-Tibetan languages. The written language was derived from Devanagari and differs from region to region.
The religion of the Dai people is Southern Buddhism, which was adopted in the 6th to 8th century and had a profound influence on their politics, economy, culture and arts. Religious activities are so common that most 8 to 10-year-old boys, in particular in Xishuangbanna, are sent to temples where they learn sutras for one to five years. They then leave the temple and spend their lives as secularized monks.