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Shuanglang Culture

The Beliefs of Bai People

Bai people believed in witchcraft initially, which still lingers in the remote area of Nujiang. During Tang dynasty (618-907), Buddhism was introduced. Fascinated by the doctrines and ideologies, the rulers of Nanzhao Kingdom promoted this religion to its extreme. Among the 22 kings, 10 became monks. Commoners of both gender occupied themselves with reading Buddhism poetry and sutra day and night. Dali became a land of Buddhism in no time. During Yuan and Ming, Daoism and Confucianism penetrated. The result is a cultural boom signified by the co-existence of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. Meanwhile, nature worship, totem worship, hero worship also hold a space in the mind of Bai people, among which, Benzhu Worship is the most distinctive one.


Benzhu, also known as Wuzeng or Daobo, roughly means “the most revered protection God of native territory”. It is the protection god of their families and villages, who can bestow farmers with good harvest, scholars with academic achievement, artisans with peerless craftsmanship and businessmen with great fortune. Among the over 500 Benzhu gods, each has mythological or heroic story and character.


These secularized gods mainly consist of Buddha, kings, generals, heroes and even enemies. For instance, the Mighty Black God (God of Epidemic) of Tibetan Buddhism is entitled as Benzhu. Legend had it that Bai people lived so happily in this blessed land that even God felt jealousy. One day, the Mighty Black God was sent to Yunnan to spread epidemic. Intoxicated by the enticing scenery and warm-hearted people, he imbibed  the poisonous juice, which scorched him  black. To thank him, Bai people make him a Benzhu God. Wu Sangui, a notorious military general living in the Ming dynasty, brought much disaster to Yunnan and its dwellers. Rather than bear hatred, Bai people title him a Benzhu God also, and pacify him with offerings from time to time. Wishing for a happy present life, Bai people will erect at least one Benzhu monastery in their village. During the sacrifice day, those senior Bai people will gather there, beating the wooden fish and praying for good harvest, peace and prosperity. Benzhu Festival is one of the most important festival of Bai people.

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