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LEXICON

 

 

Naxi (纳西)

Chinese. An ethnic group of people in China, that dwells in the foothills of the Himalayas, mainly in the northwestern part of Yunnan, as well as the southwestern part of Sichuan Province. This geographical determinant is reflected in their name, which can be translated as ‘brought into the West’. They are believed to be the descendants of the Qiang (羌), a previously nomadic ethnic tribe that mainly inhabited the Tibetan plateau, but nowadays are mostly mountain dwellers in northern Sichuan. They are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, but which also includes the Mosuo (摩梭) as part of the Naxi. However, the Mosuo are actually another ethnic group of Yunnan and Sichuan, that –despite similar origins and linguistic roots– are culturally distinct, with the Naxi being more inspired by the Han Chinese culture, whilst the Mosuo are more influenced by Tibetan culture. Traditionally, the Naxi are followers of the Dongba religion (fig.). Naxi subgroups include those from Jiuhe (fig.), Baisha, Lijiang (fig.), Sanba, Eya, etc. The traditional dress of Naxi people varies per subgroup, which usually correspondents with their dwelling place, yet the women's dress typically has a piece of goat's skin attached to it at the lower back (fig.), and the women of many groups wear a skirt with –usually white or blue– strips that are crossed in front of the chest (fig.). To indicate their marital status, married women will cross these strips in a knot. The Naxi women of Baisha often wear their traditional dress with the former Communist-style cerulean cap, typical of Chairman Mao's time (fig.). The traditional dress of Naxi men also varies widely, depending on the subgroups as well as the occasion, i.e. casual or formal (fig.), with fewer men than women dressing up the traditional way. Interestingly, some Naxi men still carry on the ancient Chinese tradition of hunting with falcons (fig.), a practice which is nowadays rarely found elsewhere in China. Akin to most other hill tribe people from southern China and northern mainland Southeast Asia, the Naxi use a small mountain horse for riding (fig.) and as beast of burden, a kind of hybrid that resulted from crossbreeding between Mongolian and Asian horses, and similar to the Thai Pony or mah klaeb (fig.), and the horses used on the Tea Horse Road, known in Chinese as Cha Ma Dao (fig.). Also spelled Nakhi. See also TRAVEL PICTURES.