Fortress Village - The Ethnic Minorities of Southwest China  
Wa Nationality (ch. wazu)

After the ethnological classification work of the 1950s and ‘60s came to an end, many ethnic minority groups in China finally obtained a standard and official name. In 1964 and 1965, the PRC government established two Wa autonomous counties—Cangyuan and Ximeng—in Yunnan. From then on, the official name of “Wazu” became firmly solidified, and has also gradually gained recognition in Wa communities. Then, in 1985, the government established the Shuangjiang Autonomous County of Lahu, Wa, Dai, and Bulang Nationalities; and the Genma Autonomous County of Dai and Wa Nationalities. Although the Wa people in Cangyuan County and Ximeng County make up the majority of the local population, in other autonomous counties and regions (e.g. Lancang, Menglian, Zhenkang, and Yongde) the Wa people are considered a relative minority group. The regions inhabited by the Wa people are also home to other ethnic groups, including Han and Dai, which make up the majority, as well as Lahu, Yi, and Lisu. Before nationality classification went underway in China, the definition and usage of the term “Wazu” appeared differently in contexts that involved multiple ethnic groups. This can be seen in early Chinese historical documents as well as the official documents of the British colonial government in Burma.

A Wa elder in the Yanshuai region sprinkling “water wine” and chanting a blessing. On days when construction of a house takes place, or when a guest comes to visit, Wa families would perform this welcoming ritual. Wine is sprinkled on the ground as an offering to the spirits of their ancestors. (Taken by the author in 2004.)
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