Wednesday, 27 March 2013

PHOTO DIARY: Tribal Markets in China's Deep South

Bulang tribal woman at Menghun market, China. Photo © Simon Raven 
Visiting village markets in the fascinating and colourful Chinese Province of Xishuangbanna, the Raven brothers return with images of a people and region of China that has more in common with Southeast Asia.

Photography by Chris Raven & Simon Raven

In the countryside of Xishuangbanna the most lively side of rural life is presented on market day. Both Xiding and Menghun, towns west of the capital Jinhong, are generally quiet 6 days a week, but once a week, Xiding (Thursday) and (Menghun) Sunday, become bustling centres of trade for the locals from the surrounding villages who come here to sell goods. It's also a social time for the people to meet old friends and swap stories.

Woman at Menghun market, China. Photo © Chris Raven 
Xiding's Thursday market is one of the most authentic ethnic markets in Xishuangbanna. A hive of activity from dawn to midday, the prosperous-looking Dai women, dressed in long colourful sarongs and wearing turbans, run the stalls while the Hani and Bulang, many wearing traditional clothes, travel to town to buy produce from them.

 Dai tribal woman at Xiding market, China. Photo © Chris Raven 
In many ways, Xishuangbanna has much more in common with its Southeast Asian neighbours Thailand, Laos and Burma than with Han-dominated China, and in recent years it has seen a strong upsurge in tourism as foreigners and Chinese tourists alike flock to this lush corner of the People's Republic. Even the temples in this area, especially Jinghong, have a distinctly Thai feel and look to them, complete with saffron-robed monks. There are many ethnic minorities living in the province from Dai, Hani, Bulang and Jinuo, and more than 50% of Xishuangbanna's 650,000 population are ethnic Dai, who are close cousins to the Thai people to the south. The Blang people, numbering 82,400, live mainly in Mt. Blang, Xiding and Bada areas of Menghai County in the Xishuangbanna. Drinking home-brewed wine and smoking tobacco are their main pastimes. Blang women like chewing betel nut and regard teeth dyed black with betel-nut juice as beautiful.

Decorative headdress at Xiding market, China. Photo © Chris Raven 

Woman at Menghun market, China. Photo © Chris Raven 

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