|1.5 - 2 million (approx.)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Mandarin, Tai Lü, Tai Nüa, Tai Dam, Lao, Thai|
|Dai folk religion,2 Theravada Buddhism|
The Dai people (Tai Lü: ᦑᦺᦟ ,တႆး [tai˥˩]; Tai Nüa: ᥖᥭᥰ, [tai˥], Chinese: 傣族; pinyin: Dǎizú) are one of several ethnic groups living in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture (both in southern Yunnan, China), but by extension can apply to groups in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma when Dai is used to mean specifically Tai Lue, Chinese Shan, Tai Dam, Tai Khao or even Tai in general. For other names, see the table below.
The Dai people form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, and are closely related to the Lao and Thai people who form a majority in Laos and Thailand. Originally, the Tai, or Dai, lived closely together in modern Yunnan Province until political chaos and wars in the north at the end of the Tang and Song Dynasty and various nomadic peoples prompted some to move further south into modern Laos then Thailand. As with many other officially recognized ethnic groups in China (See Gaoshan and Yao), the term Dai at least within Chinese usage is an umbrella term and as such has no equivalent in Tai languages who have only more general terms for 'Tai peoples in general' (e.g., Tai Lue: tai˥˩, but this term refers to all Dai people, not including Zhuang) and 'Tai people in China' (e.g., Thai: ชาวไทในจีน'), both of which include the Zhuang for example which is not the case in the Chinese; and more specific terms, as shown in the table below. Thereforedubious the word Dai, like with the aforementioned Yao, is a Han-Chinese cultural concept which has now been adopted by other languages such as English, French and German (see respective Wikipedias). As a solution in the Thai language, however, as in English, the term Tai Lue can be used to mean Dai, despite referring to other groups as in the table below. This is because the two main groups actually bear the same name, both meaning 'Northern Tai' (lue and nüa are cognate).
Although they are officially recognized as a single people by the Chinese state, these Tai people form several distinct cultural and linguistic groups. The two main languages of the Dai are Dai Lü (Sibsongbanna Dai) and Dai Nüa (Daihong Dai); two other written languages used by the Dai are Tày Pong and Tai Dam. They all are Tai languages, a group of related languages that includes Thai, Lao, and Zhuang, and part of the Tai–Kadai language family. Various dialects of the Tai/Dai language family are spoken from Assam, India to Taiwan and Shanxi Province, China in the North to Java Indonesia in the South. The Tai peoples follow their traditional religion as well as Theravadin Buddhism, and maintain similar customs and festivals (such as the Sankrant) to the other Tai-speaking peoples. They are among the few natives groups in China who nominally practice the Theravada school of Buddhism.
|Chinese||Pinyin||Tai Lü||Tai Nüa||Thai||Conventional||Area(s)|
|tai˥˩ lɯː˩||ไทลื้อ||Tai Lü, Tai Lue, Lue||Sipsongpanna Tai Autonomous Prefecture, Laos, Thailand， Burma， Vietnam|
|ไทเหนือ, ไทใต้คง, ไทใหญ่||Tai Nüa, Northern Tai, Upper Tai, Chinese Shan, Tai Yai||Dehong (德宏); Burma|
|傣擔||Dǎidān||tai˥˩ dam˥||ไทดำ, ลาวโซ่ง, ผู้ไท||Tai Dam, Black Tai, Tai Lam, Lao Song Dam*, Tai Muan, Tai Tan, Black Do, Jinping Dai, Tai Den, Tai Do, Tai Noir, Thai Den||Jinping (金平), Laos, Thailand|
|傣繃||Dǎibēng||tai˥˩pɔːŋ˥||ไทเบง, ไทเมา, ไทใหญ่||Tay Pong||Ruili (瑞丽), Gengma (耿马),
along the Mekong
|傣端||Dǎiduān||tai˥˩doːn˥||ไทขาว||White Tai, Tày Dón, Tai Khao, Tai Kao, Tai Don, Dai Kao, White Dai, Red Tai, Tai Blanc, Tai Kaw, Tày Lai, Thai Trang||Jinping (金平)|
|傣雅||Dǎiyǎ||tai˥˩jaː˧˥||ไทหย่า||Tai Ya, Tai Cung, Cung, Ya||Xinping (新平), Yuanjiang (元江)|
along the Red River
|* lit. "Lao [wearing] black trousers"|
Peoples classified as Dai in China speak the following Southwestern Tai languages.
- Tai Lü language, Dǎilèyǔ, 傣仂语
- Tai Nüa language, Déhóng Dǎiyǔ, 德宏傣语(Shan language)
- Tai Dam language, Dǎinǎyǔ, 傣哪语; Dǎidānyǔ, 傣担语
- Tai Ya language, Dǎiyǎyǔ, 傣雅语
- Tai Hongjin language, 红金傣语
The original areas of the Tai Lue included both sides of the Mekong River in the Sipsongpanna. According to the Tai Lue, there were five city-states on the east bank and six on the west, which with Jinghong formed twelve rice field divisions with all twelve having another 32 small provinces. These were:
On the west bank - Rung, Ha, Sae, Lu, Ong, Luang, Hun, Phan, Chiang Choeng, Hai, Chiang Lo and Mang; On the east bank - La, Bang, Hing, Pang, La, Wang, Phong, Yuan, Bang and Chiang Thong (present-day Luang Prabang). (These names are transcribed according to their Thai Language pronunciations not their Tai Lue(Dai) pronunciations. If transcribed according to their Tai Lue pronunciations they would be as follows: Hung, Ha, Sae, Lu, Ong, Long, Hun, Pan, Cheng Choeng, Hai, Cheng Lo, Mang, La, Bang, Hing, Pang, La, Wang, Pong, Yon, Bang and Cheng Tong)
Some portions of these Tai Lue either voluntarily moved or were forcibly herded from these city-states around one to two hundred years ago, arriving in countries of present-day Burma, Laos and Thailand.
In the 19th Buddhist century Chao Sunanda, son of the ruler of Jinghong, led a following of Tai Lue from Jinghong to Yong in present-day Shan State to rule over the original inhabitants, the Lawa. They were aided by the following factors:
Assimilating beliefs and customs and the arrival of a unifying Buddhist religion in a later period
Family ties with and a tributary system to the city-states of Jinghong and Kengtong, and the building of official alliances with clusters of city-states around Chiang Rai on the banks of the Mekong, such as Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong.
Given this history, the Tai Yong are thus closely related to the Tai Lue. In Thailand, these people are still known as Tai Yong, as distinct from the Tai Khoen of Kengtung (Kyaingtong) and the Tai Yai of Shan state generally. The term Shan is generally not used in Thai.
In Thailand there are Tai Lue in many provinces of the upper regions of Northern Thailand; these provinces are:
- Chiang Rai: Mae Sai, Chiang Khong and Chiang Saen districts (a portion fled to Chiang Rung at the outbreak of the Ayuthian-Burman War)
- Nan: Tha Wang Pha, Pua, Chiang Klang and Thung Chang districts (the greatest number, fleeing from the Saiyaburi and Sipsongpanna regions)
The Dai people are typically farmers, growing a variety of tropical crops such as pineapples, in addition to the staple crop of rice. Many Dai live near the Mekong river where it meanders through the far south of Yunnan.
Dai containers (silver). Metalwork in the Yunnan Provincial Museum.
- Zhu, Liangwen (1992). The Dai: Or the Tai and Their Architecture & Customs in South China. Bangkok, Thailand, and Kunming, Yunnan, China: D D Books and The Science and Technology Press of Yunnan.
- Les Dai de Chine: Zhongguo de Dai zu (in French), Jean A. Berlie, 136 pages, Paris, France, published in 1990.
- "Ethnic Groups". China.org.cn.
- Haimei Shen. Risk Society, the Predicaments of Folk Religion and Experience of Modernity: The Guardian Spirits in the Mandi Dailue Ethnic Society of Xishuangbanna. China: An International Journal , Vol. 11, No. 2
- Photos related to Dai Theravada Buddhism
- Site including information on some endangered Tai scripts
- Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dai people.|