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Bai Ethnic Minority of Dali

People of the Bai Ethnic Minority mainly live in Dali, Lijiang, Bijiang, Baoshan, Nanhua, Yuanjiang, Kunming, and Anning of Yunnan Province, Bijie of Guizhou Province, Liangshan of Sichuan Province, and Sanzhi of Hunan Province. The population of the Bai nationality is 185,800.

Today's Bai are descendants of the ancient Ji. During the pre-Qin period (about 2,200 years ago), the Ji inhabited the drainage area of the Huangshui River. However, during the Han and Jin Dynasties, they scattered along the eastern side of the Lanchangjiang River in Yunnan Province and the northern Honghe River area. During this time, they lived with the Qiang people (another nationality in China). Gradually, the Ji concentrated in fewer areas. Since the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the Ji have been known as the Bai.

Around the second century BC, the forefathers of the Bai settled in Dali. In the year 109 BC, Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty sent troops to Yunnan, conquered it, and established Yizhou County in Yunan. In the late seventh and early eighth centuries, Piluoge, a Bai leader, united the tribes of the Bai nationality around Erhai Lake and set up a regime known as Nanzhao. The people living around Erhai Lake are the ancestors of todays Bai population.

In the year 937, the Dali Kingdom under the central government of the Song Dynasty was founded. In later years, it had closer contacts with the central parts of China. Because of these contacts and the exchange of cultures, the Bais culture was greatly enriched. In the year 1253, the Mongol army conquered the Dali State. In 1271, the Yuan Dynasty replaced the Song Dynasty. The central government of the Yuan Dynasty established Yunnan Province, where the Dali Kingdom was once situated. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, many people of Bai nationality took positions in the central and local governments by passing the imperial examinations.

The Bai ancestors were known as 'Dianfen,' 'Sou,' 'Baiman,' 'Bairen,' and 'Minjia' during different periods in history. Naxi people call the Bai 'Nama,' and Lisu people call the Bai 'Emo.' And, the Bai people from different places call themselves different names, such as Fenzi, Fenerzi, Baini, or Baihuo. In 1956, when the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture was founded, their names were unified as one, as Bai.


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