Village Wood and Sacrifice

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Buddhism and Plants

All the minorities of Xishuangbanna, including the Dai minority, are nations of the forests. From ancient times till up to the present, the forests are the basic material and environment conditions for their survival. Forests are the objects of their worshipping and their worshipping for forests also has close relations with their worshipping of ancestors. In such circumstances, in all the villages and the unit above villages, they at least keep one piece of forest, which is called "Longshan wood" (village wood). This kind of woods kept in all minority communities in Xishuangbanna have altogether over 1000. Some of them have dozens of mu, larger ones have over 100 mu, and the biggest ones have over 1000 mu. The total area is no less than 10000 mu. The plant varieties in these woods exceed 1000 and account for one 5th of the plant varieties in this district. They are the protective areas of the communities, as well as an important forming part of the benign ecological and agricultural environment. 

Taking the Dai folks as an example, their ancestors once lived in the cold forest in high elevations; since the expansion of population and the change in environments, they were forced to immigrate to hot forests in higher elevations. Their ancestors left the rules that: "there would be no water without forests, there would be no fields without water, there would be no grains without fields, and there would be no people without grains"; and the establishment of the Longshan woods has close relations with such rules. In another aspect, the establishment of Longshan wood also has close relations with worshipping of ancestors. Since most of the people died normally are old folks with enriched production experiences and knowledge in daily life, though they died away, the local people believe that their souls are still alive; and their souls are more clever and capable than those who are still alive. People still alive need the help and protection of the souls. Since their ancestors come from the forests, the best way to let them enjoy themselves is to let them go back to the forests. In this way, the Longshan woods become the home of all spirits. Since the Dai folks believe that the people died accidentally could not become gods, instead, they would become evil spirits and might cause harm to other people. Even chiefs and leaders, if they died accidentally, they have no right to be buried in the Longshan woods. 

After the introduction of Buddhism, since the believers of the polytheism and Buddhism are the same group of people, the Dai folks would go to temples to contribute sacrifices to their dead relatives. The sacrifices are quite interesting. For example, the pigs used to make sacrifices to the dead chiefs could not be killed and could only be choked to death with water, the chickens could not be killed with knives, they should be hammered to death, and the feathers should be burned with fire. That's because, in ancient times, their ancestors had no knives, and they killed pigs and chickens through such methods. The sacrifices could not be put into bowls or on plates too, they should be pieced with bamboo tacks or wrapped in banana leaves, for their ancestors had no such wares too. These ceremonies reflect that the ancestors of the Dai folks originally live in the forests and they mainly live on hunting.