The Nakhi or the Nashi people are an ethnic group found at the foot of the Himalayas in the province of Yunnan and in the province of Sichuan in China. They are thought to have emigrated from southwestern China and moved to the Tibetan region. Nakhi is among the ethnic groups officially recognized by the government of China. The government of China regards the Mosuo as part of the Nakhi people, an issue that has been challenged by both ethnic groups. The Nakhi people were brought to the attention of the western world by Joseph Rock, an American botanist, and Peter Goullart, a Russian writer. The two friends interacted extensively with the Nashi people with Peter, describing their beliefs and their tradition in his book “Forgotten Kingdom”.
History of the Nakhi people
The Nashi are believed to be descendants of Proto-Qiang, an ethnic group living on the Tibetan plateau. The Nashi people were known as Mosha-yi during the Sui and Tang dynasties. Frequently persecuted by other tribes, the Proto-Nakhi moved to the banks of the Nujiang River and then along the Lungo River in present-day Sichuan Province. They eventually settled in the Baisha and Lijiang areas in 3 CE. While they were at Baisha, they divided into three groups; the Nakhi remained in Baisha, the Bai in Dali and the Mosuo who live near the Lugu lake. From the tenth to the thirteenth century, the Nakhi people who lived in Lijiang experienced a period of prosperity with agriculture, crafts and cattle production as the main economic engine. In this period,
Culture of the Nakhi people
The culture of the Nakhi people is largely his with little influence from the Confucian roots of the Han Chinese. Their music has several decades and is still preserved by artists like He Wen Guang, who specializes in traditional and modern style Nashi music. The music includes literary texts and musical styles derived from themes prevalent in Tang, Song and Yuan.
Nashi’s architectural design is similar to that of the Han Chinese. The houses are built in a courtyard with one or four houses around it. The temples are decorated with carvings on poles and wall paintings showing dongba and Buddhist influences. The cremation of the dead remains a preferred means of liberating the dead, although burial is also common. During funeral ceremonies, religious writings are sung to atone for the sins of the dead.
In the Nakhi society, women are confined to most domestic and agricultural work and are held in the kitchen when guests are around. However, they are influential in family decisions. The dressing is an important part of the Nashi culture. Women wear loose-fitting dresses with wide sleeves accompanied by jackets and long trousers. Sheepskin can be carried over the shoulder. In modern times, traditional clothes are rare among the younger generations and are worn only during cultural events.
The Nakhi language, commonly called the Naxi language, is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by more than 300,000 people. Most Naxi speakers also speak other languages including Chinese, Tibetan, Bai and English as a second language. Common Naxi dialects include Lijiang, Lapao and Lutien. Lijiang is considered the most uniform of the three dialects and has been heavily influenced by the standard Chinese dialect.