The Hani from Yunnan, south China

There are about 1,5 million Hani (known as Ho in Laos) people, the majority of whom live together with their neighbours, the Yi, in Southern Yunnan. The Hani are renowned for their incredible rice terraces. Their ingenious irrigation system, which provides water equitably to all rice farmers, is as impressive as the mountainous landscape it supplies. The idyllic beauty of this scenery is greatly owed to the terraced rice fields, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces are over 1000 years old and are cultivated collaboratively by 82 small villages from that area. For the Hani, water and the forest above the fields is sacred; both are allowed to be used as divine gifts but must not be exploited. Like the Yi, the Hani are animists and believe in the divine power of nature. Both minorities belong to the Tibetan-Burmese language group. Like the Yi, the Hani came originally from Tibet, having migrated during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) via Sichuan to Yunnan. The Hani are also known for actively engaging in extra-marital sex, which is known as the Che`ais System. Generally, marriages are arranged. Just as with the Hmong or Yao the women only move in with their spouses after they have given birth to the first child.

Subgroups of Hani live in different regions, and are easily distinguished by differences in attire. The Hani in Xishuangbanna in the southernmost part of Yunnan are called Akha, and wear jackets that are cut and embroidered differently from those living in Honghe Prefecture, where the UNESCO-protected rice terrasses are. Their headdress also varies considerably from the others’. However, some of the most interesting traditional items of clothing are worn by a smaller branch of Hani from Hoghe, the Yiche (Yicyu). The women’s garments are particularly striking: they wear very short indigo-coloured trousers resembling baggy hot pants, and white conical hats, reminiscent of the traditional headgear worn by women in Holland, and a lot of silver jewellery. They also wear indigo-coloured, short-sleeved jackets consisting of several, identically cut layers worn together as a composite jacket. Often, each individual layer has been dyed a different shade, growing lighter in colour the closer it is to the wearer’s body. Only the outermost layer is made of the fabric with the characteristic egg white lustre. It is easiest to count the number of jackets worn by starting at the hem of the garment, where one can see the different gradations clearly. The more »jacket layers« there are, which can amount to as many as 12, the richer and more blessed with good health the wearer is (thought to be). The overall look is pretty snazzy.

Pictures right side, from top to bottom: 
1. A Yiche Hani woman fully dressed up 
2. The Yiche woman in her superfancy party dresses. 
3. The multiple layer jecket, here a 6 layers jacket – means rich but not much… 
4. Very important for the costume of the Hani from Yuanyang are long, small ribbons. They use them as headdress decoration. Here you can see how they made them.  
5. The Hani woman from Honghe are wearing asymetrical jackets. in fancy colours. 6. Market day in Xinjie. 
7. Duck seller (Hani) at the sunday market in Xinjie. 
Pictures left side, from top to bottom: 
8. Yi and Hani woman at the sunday market in Xinjie.
9. The rice terraces in Yuanyang
10. Yi and Hani woman doing handicrafts at the market in Xinjie.
11. Sewing with maschine. New jacket production in Xinjie. 
12. The rice terraces in Yuanyang
13. Hani/Akha woman in Xishuangbanna, south Yunnan.