Living mainly in the hillside and basin areas in Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou and the northwestern part of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Prefecture, Yi minority is reputed as a nation with a long history and splendid culture.
Deriving from the Zang-Mian Austronesian family of Sino-Tibetan Phylum, Yi language is divided into six dialects. With regard to its characters, the Yi ethnic minority is proud to have created the earliest syllable letters in China in the 13th century. Historically, great contributions have been made owing to the recording of chronometer, literature, medicine etc. in their language.
Various beliefs are treasured by the Yi people, such as the belief of the spirit, the worship of their ancestors, and the adoration of nature, along with the cherishing of Catholicism, Christianity, and Buddhism. Amongst all these beliefs, the power of the spirit is regarded as the most magical one. Some heirlooms left by their ancestors are endowed with magic that can bring good will to their owners. Therefore, these highly valued possessions are carefully kept and passed down through generations.
During the festivals, numerous kinds of wines can be seen and tasted while some others play flutes or sing and dance. When drinking, Yi prefer to sit around a circle and drink one by one without eating dishes. The goblets they use while drinking are also unique. Some of them are made of wood, some from sheep or ox horns, some are even made of eagle's claws.
Drinking tea is the daily must. In some regions, Sandao Tea is a popular way of drinking. Sandao Tea is divided into Yingbin Tea, the tea for welcoming guests; XukuTea, the tea for confiding hopeless things; and Sanmen Tea, teas for dispelling boring moods.
They are quite skilled at painting, sculpture, embroidery, and drawing with lacquer. The women are quite adept at embroidery. Their skills are demonstrated on their beautiful waistbands, handkerchiefs, and hanging strips. The women's reputations are greatly influenced by their level of embroidery competence.
Mainly six types of clothes are scattered in six different regions of Yi ethnic minority. However, women usually wear clothes with beautiful flowers embroidered on them, and long trousers with exquisite lace or skirts with numerous pleats. Men like to wear black narrow sleeved clothes, and loose pants. Both men and women wear head-handkerchiefs on their heads, while the women's are made with beautiful pictures embroidered on them.
Traditional festivals of Yi people include the Torch and Chahua festivals. Held on the 24th day of the lunar month of June, the Torch Festival is the grandest traditional festival. Lasting for three days, it is held to celebrate the victory of a rebellion against a tyrannical landlord, and is a gathering where families assemble together and hold rich and colorful activities. Wearing the traditional Yi clothes, they enjoy themselves with wrestling, horse racing, bull fighting, tug-of-wars and so on. When night comes, large bonfires are lit, with people sitting around, singing and dancing for the whole night. Chahua festival is another characteristic festival which is held to commemorate the hero, Mi Yinu, who helped the Yi people overcome the tyrannical ruler. When the Maying flowers blossom, people will wear them on their hairs or present them to each other and sing to their heart's content to celebrate their happy life.