The ladies of the Bai people wear a striking curved headdress. The tassel represents the wind; the band is embroidered with flowers to show off the girl’s skill; the white fringe is the snow on the peaks of the Cang mountains and the whole curves like the new moon. Bai means white, and the rest of their traditional dress is a coloured top and flowing white trousers and sleeves. Our local guide showed off the full outfit, and older ladies were wearing the headdress in the local market. We saw the four characters repeatedly: on a pillar in a temple; on the courtyard wall of a house in Xizhou, and also on a bottle of local beer!
The traditional Naxi costume includes a black sheepskin cape with cross-cross straps at the front and a baggy white panel at the back said to look like the belly of a frog, and thus be good for women to have many children. The black and white represents night and day, and the seven disks are stars: apparently Naxi women work from dawn to dark!
Oddly, in the Tibetan Buddhist temple near Zhongdian, we saw these elegant young people – I’m not sure if it was a fashion shoot or a trailer for a TV programme, but they looked fabulous!
We lingered over the embroidered ribbons in a market in the south.
In the southern town of Yuanyang, the Dai, Hani, and Yi have their own distinctive clothing. The Dai wear tightly-fitting patterned tops, whereas the Hani clothes are plain blocks of dark colour, red, black, blue or green, often velvet. By contrast, the Yi are flamboyant, pink or blue tops with multiple bands of colourful embroidery, also seen on the diamond-shaped panels at the back of the tunics – originally to protect their trousers, but now surely much too beautiful to sit on.
There are 25 minority ethnic groups in Yunnan, though the Han are still the majority in the province as a whole. The various groups still wear diverse local costume, though I noticed that it was usually only the women doing so, not the men. Cynically, I also wonder if they are pressured to wear it.