Leave Culture of Talipot Palm
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Sutra Written on the Leaves of Talipot Palm

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The Dai minority is the only ethic group that has its own characters in Xishuangbanna, and their character is called "Dailie letter". As to who invented or when such characters were invented, we are still not very clear. According to the records in Yuan Dynasty, "the tribes in Xishuangbanna have no characters, and they keep records by carving on wood". The "Records of the Tribes in Xishuangbanna" of the Ming Dynasty says: "they do not use Chinese characters. They carve small marks on the wood for minor matters; and they write Mian letters for records for important things". The Mian letters here may refer to the Dai letters. So, the time for the beginning of the Dai characters might be in the 14th century, in-between the period of the Yuan Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty; and has now a history of 600-700 years. The characters of the Dai folks were invented as Buddhism entered the district, it originated from an ancient letter of India, and become the present characters after continuous improvement. 

Regarding the carriers of the Dai letters, besides the paper used today, those used to copy Buddhist lections mainly include "cotton paper" and talipot palm. There is no talipot palm in the rain forest in Xishuangbanna, and it was introduced into the district because of the needs for copying lections. Since Xishuangbanna has very good climate conditions, the trees are later on planted in the temples in this district, and they could grow very tall. Regarding the carving of letters on talipot palm, the Dai folks have quite moving stories: long, long ago, a Dai lad, in order to seek for brightness, said farewell to his fiancée and went to a place far away; he would write a letter to his fiancée everyday; he wrote the letters on the banana leaves, and a parrot would send the letter for him. As the lad went further and further, the banana leave letter would dry up before it was delivered to the hands of his fiancée, and the writings were no longer recognizable. One day, the lad found a leave of the palm tree in the forest, clear lines were left on the leave after the insects bit it. Enlightened by this, he carved his letters on the palm leave, after many days of delivering, the writings on it were still clear. In this way, the ancestors of the Dai folks discovered the method to carve writings on the leaves of talipot palm; and thereafter, the talipot palm leaves also symbolizes "brightness" and "love". 

Leaves of Talipot Palm 
used to write sutra

Regarding the lections on talipot palm leaves, there was also a moving story. Long, long ago, the people of the Dai, the Hani and the Han all went on a pilgrimage for Buddhist scriptures. The Han people copied what they learnt on the paper, the Hani people wrote what they learnt on the cowhide, and the Dai people carved the scriptures on the talipot palm leaves. On their way back home, they sat on the same boat when crossing a river; it was quite unfortunate that the boat turned over, and the scriptures fell into the river and saturated. After they dried the scriptures up on the bank of the river, the scriptures copied on paper all became the shapes of a bird foot, thus, became the pictograph of the Han Chinese; the scriptures carved on the palm leaves were still very clear after drying, the Dai folks were quite proud of this; while the scriptures written on the cowhide were no longer recognizable after being saturated, and the cowhide was boiled and eaten, therefore, the Hani people had no characters at all. 

The Dai folks preserved and developed their culture with the talipot palm leaves. Previously, Xishuangbanna had more than 500 Buddhist temples, and the talipot palm leave scriptures left totaled to more than 5000 volumes. Numerous talipot palm leave scriptures also recorded the history, chronometer, and medical knowledge of the Dai folks; they are an important part of the national culture. Nowadays, all Buddhist temples in Xishuangbanna are still using the ancient methods to copy scriptures.