Hani People in China largely spread across the counties on the western bank of the lower reaches of the Honghe River, southwest Yunnan Province. It has a population of 1.4 million, mostly engaged in agriculture. Hani Language, a branch of Yi Language, Sino-Tibetan Language Family, is spoken in three different dialect zones. Each Hani dialect varies tremendously from another, therefore people speaking different Hani dialects cannot communicate with each other in their mother tongues.
Nearly all Hani People worship the nature, ghosts and spirits and ancestors and follow the belief that everything in the world has a soul. Ancestor worshipping is an important Hani belief. They believe that the spirits of the ancestors resides in the tombs, Momiluoke, namely the entry to the heaven or the place where the ancestral shrine is worshiped. Therefore sacrifices should be done frequently to win the favors and protection of the God and ancestors.
Black is the favorite color of Hani People. For these farmers and residents on high land, heavy and durable clothes that keep warm and endure dirty environment have obvious advantages. Additionally this is also demonstration of the hermit living style and attitude of the locals, their uncultured dress material and less developed dyeing techniques. The embroidery and silver ornaments on the clothes stand for the terraced fields which go layers upon layers. The crabs, clams and fish suggest Hani People's adoration for water.
Hani men basically wear tight shirt, loose pants and black scarf while the female dress with complex decoration. What is worthy of mentioning is that the ancient Hani did not have shoes and socks. They wore a sort of special wooden shoes, whose soles were not slippery and therefore good for walking on the muddy rice paddy.
Hani villages are normally located in places with lush forest, abundant water sources and fertile terraced field or hillsides. Common Hani buildings are straw house, mushroom house, as well as modern reinforced concrete structure building. Among them, the mushroom house is the best representative of Hani architecture.
As the name implies, the mushroom shaped house consists of earth wall, bamboo and wood scaffoldings and straws roof (the roof has four slopes). The ground floor of the house is for keeping livestock and furniture, and people live on the first floor, normally having three rooms (there is a square shaped fire pool in the middle room in which the fire is burning constantly). The second floor is covered with fireproof earth and for warehouse. The house is warm in winter and cool in summer.
The Hani legend tells that their ancestors are nomads from the south of Dadu River in today’s Sichuan Province in the 3rd century BC. They gradually migrated south and settled in today’s Yunnan Province.
Their staple foods are rice and corn. Sour and spicy are their favorite tastes. They pick wild vegetables to make soup, and use leaves of fragrance as condiment. Both Hani men and women are generally smokers and heated wine and teas are their favorite drinks. Chewing areca is also popular among the Hani People.
There is a very unique dish called Baiwang, which is essential for treating guests. A small amount of salt is put into the blood of pig, goat or dog to help with concretion in a short time. Then the blood cakes are grilled on charcoal fire with pork, radish slice, garlic leaves, chili, pepper and some other vegetable and seasonings. Finally some peanuts are sowed upon the top of the cake. Though the ready dish may look a little horrifying, it tastes delicious with spicy and fragrant flavor.
Hani is a hospitable and warm-hearted people. When visiting an ordinary Hani family, you will be served with the Hani home-made cigarette pipe. If you are not a smoker, you should decline this kind entertainment in a courteous manner.
In the Hani belief one's uncle (the brothers of mother) is the most senior, so if a baby does not know his or her uncle, he or she can not grow well. Therefore there is a very important Hani custom called "recognizing the uncle". On the day to recognize one's uncle, both the mother and young baby get up in the early morning. The mother washes the baby's face and dresses him or her neatly. The mother should also paint a black mark on the baby's forehead and tie some garlic to the baby's hat, aiming to ward off the evils.
When everything is ready, the mother will carry the baby on her back and set off to the uncle's home. In the mother's bag there are many fried stirred yellow beans, steamed chicken eggs, sticky rice pies. The mother also carries a white umbrellas and a sickle with each of her hand. On the way whoever they meet, regardless of sex, age, nationality or religious belief, the mother will offer some beans and a big smile as gift. Traveling in the Hani region if you are lucky enough to encounter such a Hani mother, you are advisable to accept her kind offer and give your blessings in return.
The Hani calendar divides a year into three seasons, namely the cold, warm and rainy seasons, each lasting for four months. Two New Year Days (October New Year and June New Year) are celebrated in a year.
October New Year: In Hani calendar, October is the beginning of a year. The five to six days celebration is all about worshipping God and ancestors. A rooster is killed and cooked outside one's house. Each family member except girls who are about to get married should eat one piece of the chicken. Afterwards three rice balls and some cooked meat are given to the eldest people in the clan. During the celebration a grand Jiexin Banquet (a banquet held in the centre of the street) is an occasion for people to exhibit their cooking techniques and skills. A very unique convention is that women who got married in the last year will gather at fields outside of the village to talk about their marriage life, and men are not allowed to listen to what they say.
June New Year: It is celebrated in June, but the precise date is determined by the flamen. Rooster and goats are sacrificed to the God of Grain and Heaven. When building the autumn house for the God of Heaven, a bull is killed and sacrificed in front of one's door. After the ceremony the beef is averaged by the attendants, which implies that people are sharing the gifts from the God.
- 55 ethnic minorities are living in China, they have different customs and cultures with Han Chinese. Join our Minority Discovery Tours to experience the differences!
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I updated this article on February 28, 2014
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