The Wa ethnic minority lives primarily in the counties of Ximeng, Cangyuan and Menglian in Yunnan Provinces. According to the census of 2000, the Wa people has a population of 396,610.
Language and Character:
The Wa language belongs to the Mon-Khmer group of the Austro-Asiatic phylum, and can be divided into three dialects. The Chinese government helped the Wa to create a written formal language in 1957, since there were no characters that were widely used.
Years ago, the Wa people believed in the power of natural things and thought all things have their spirits, including for example water, mountain, and wood. The mightiest god was called 'Muyiji', and his five sons were the ancestors of the Wa. In recent years, some of the Wa have become followers of Buddhism and Christianity.
The Wa people live mainly on agriculture. The staple of their diet is rice, and they like to chew betel nuts and drink wine. The food is prepared with spicy flavors. They regard wine as a necessity when they host guests or their elders. During festivals, young men will toast girls with a special wine that is held in a bamboo tube, and girls will drink it through a straw.
There are several taboos that guests should be aware of so that when they visit a Wa family, they will not offend their hosts. For example, the guests should not ride into a Wa village on a horse; they should not touch other's head or ear; and Wa girls will not accept a guests' gift if it is an adornment.
The Wa people favor the colors red and black, so their clothes are usually black with red decorations. Men's coat and trousers are short and broad, and they all like bare feet. Besides, they like to take knife and bamboo necklace. Women's clothes are more beautiful. They wear necklaces and bracelets, most of which are made of bamboo or silver. Their ear rings are very distinctive for the complex style incorporating shining silver rings with bird bones and shells. As the Wa women love very long hair, they incorporate their hair into their dances which highlights their charm.
Every time there is great event or festival, the Wa people will hold the Piaoniu ceremony, In this ceremony, they kill an ox, divide its meat amongst all the families for sacrifice to their ancestors. The ox bone is given to the host of the ceremony and symbolizes wealth. This ceremony is symbolic of their wish for peace and great harvest.