Ben Zhu Festival  本主节


Costumes and festivals are usually the first things that people think of when they mention a national culture. I also want to start from here. The biggest festival of the Bai people is the Benzhu festival.

Minority festivals are of great interest to the general public and the media. As a result, boilerplate-like stage-style costumes, performances deliberately designed for tourists. ‘Benzhu’ is a religion unique to the Dali Bai ethnic group, which is the patron saint of a tribe or area. A Benzhu could be a human, a god, an animal or a ghost, depending on which each area worships and celebrate. In the first month of every lunar year, The Bai people sacrifice their masters in Benzhu festival and hold various songs and dances, games, and competitions, usually lasting three or four days.

These special festivals and ceremonies have attracted the media and tourists with the booming tourism industry in Dali. Therefore, the model-style and stage-style performance costumes, deliberate performance style of sightseeing services, formalized traditional celebrations appear more and more. They do not only form a fixed impression of the outside world on the Bai's culture but also affect younger generation of Bai people. I dislike these changes in "modernization."

Since 2014, I have visited different tribes and villages every year to attend their Benzhu Festival and record the most authentic Bai celebrations and the simple rituals of the ordinary Bai people in a way that preserves as much their real life as possible. Interestingly, I also found that in these villages modern products were naturally incorporated into Bai people's traditional culture. For example, leather shoes, sneakers, cars and sunglasses are widely accepted and used by villagers because of their utility. But at the same time, they still retain most of the Bai traditions. As a result, an interesting "Bai fashion" emerged.