Council tree (Ficus altissima) and Sacred Trees

Council tree and Sacred Trees

The primitive minorities in the rain forests live on the fruits, earthnuts and young leaves they collected from the forests. Even in modern times, the collection of plants in forests is also an important supplement for their daily lives. In their mixing with the forests for such a long time, the local people have cultivated deep and strange emotions on the big trees of the rain forest. Why do they produce more foods than shrubs and herbs? Why do so many birds living there and striving for food with man? Tall trees once provided important conditions for them to live on trees and to avoid harms caused by poisonous snakes and fierce animals. Besides, tall trees have longer life spans, exuberant leaves and dense branches, their offspring of different heights surround them; and such phenomena inspire awes and admirations in the minds of the local people. Therefore, the local folks believe that these tall trees have souls and could protect human beings; that's why they treat tall trees as "holy (dragon) trees" and worship them. 

In the rain forests, trees that are deemed as "holy trees" could be found everywhere; Council tree is a kind of holy tree worshipped by almost all minorities in Xishuangbanna. It is not only tall and big, it could also entangle other trees in the rain forest and replace them; it could have many serial roots on its big branches, which would develop to thick pillar roots, and thus form miraculous views such as "one-tree forests"; on the council tree, there are various epiphytes such as orchids, moss and lichens etc, and they make the tree into unique "gardens in the air"; numerous fruits of the council tree attract many birds to look for food, the birds make a busy scene and they turn the trees into the "paradise of animals". So, it is normal that the epic of the Dai folks record it has souls.

Since the local folks worship tall trees as "holy trees", all the minorities protect them too. Even if when they need to fell tall trees for the construction of tall buildings, they would first make some sacrifices, such as two pairs of wax bars, one string of betelnut and a cup of liquor, to ask for forgiveness of the holy trees, so that the trees would not find trouble with them. Since council tree s are deemed as holy trees, the local folks never dare to fell them; moreover, they must plant council trees in the villages or nearby, so that the trees could guard the peace and safety of the communities. In the past, when people plant council trees, they would also hold certain ceremonies, and they would also sing the "Song of Planting": "it's really auspicious, saintly trees; we don't plant you in the high mountains, we don't plant you in the deep valleys; we plant you nearby the villages, nearby the rice fields; you could grow beside the roads, you could root here and grow exuberantly". In this way, we could see many thick council trees with great canopies and exuberant leaves in the minority communities, particularly in the villages of the Dai folks. The council trees are part of the Dai folks' culture; the local folks enjoy the cool under the tree during summer time, and they weave farming tools and bamboo wares in spare time and at dusk under the tree. In the evening, the young lads and girls would set on a campfire under the tree, the females would do weavings and the males would sing to some local musical instruments, and seek for loves. The council trees would let them enjoy a happy and romantic evening.