National Forest Culture - Religions

Monks are Planting Trees for Memorial

           The religious believes of Xishuangbanna mainly include the native polytheism and the later Hinayana. All the minorities believe in polytheism originally. When their development was still in a primitive period, the production force was low, and the people were lack of scientific and cultural knowledge, they could not understand phenomena such as wind, rain, thunders and lightening, or even the land and plant and animals in the forests; thus, they believe that everything has spirits; therefore, worship for nature, tattoo worship and man worshipping were quite popular among the. 

In Xishuangbanna, only the Dai folks and the Bulang folks believe in Buddhism. The scholars have different opinions about the time for the introduction of Buddhism into this district, but it has at least a history of nearly 1000 years. After Buddhism was introduced to the district, it collided with the polytheism of Xishuangbanna at first. For example, the "Grandma Guhun", she once made the communities enjoy great yields of grains and flourishing in population; and Buddha chased Her away later on, which resulted in the situation that the land lie waste and the Buddha was starving. "People regard food as the most important", Buddha had to admit that "God of Grain" was very important and asked her back. The process of this struggle was also recorded in the scriptures, so that the monks could pass it down. Since the primitive polytheism were deeply rooted in the minorities, after compromise and modification, Buddhism got a foothold among the Dai and Bulang folks. Though two religious systems coexist, the believers are the same people, particularly men who rule out the primitive religions, and almost all of them were monks. The two religious systems mingled with each other, and formed a mixed religious culture in Xishuangbanna. 

Holy Trees of the Dai Folks

As a kind of cultural phenomenon, all religious beliefs are the products of special environmental conditions, and they are tactics for local people to adapt to their special environments. All the minorities represented by the Dai folks, in spite that their ancestors had moved from cold forests to hot forests, could not part from forests; therefore, they are all nations of the forests. Their religious beliefs make them stay harmoniously with the animals and plants of the rain forests. Even before 1950s, the rain forests still kept an overlaying rate of 50% in Xishuangbanna.