Traditional Costume of Wa Minority

The Wa people like to wear homespun clothes, each geographical area having its own distinctive style. Most like black clothes with red decoration. Men usually wear short black collarless coats and loose trousers. They keep their hair short and always wrap their heads with black or red turbans like horns. Some wear circular earrings, silver bracelets, and bamboo or silver necklaces as well. When going out, every man likes to carry a homespun bag on his arm and wear a sword on his waist, making him look more masculine. Tattooing is also a common practice among men.

The Wa women, most of whom have long hair, wear short black collarless jackets that just reach the upper part of their bellies, and skirts with red and black stripes. They usually wear big earrings, colorful strings of beads and thick silver necklaces, with red bands around their waists and bamboo or rattan bangles around their bare arms and legs. The old women like to wear big umbrella-like five-inch-long ear tubes, where they can put some fragrant flowers, grass and even money for easy access when they go shopping.

In Ximeng County where the Wa people live in compact communities, every woman, rich or poor, always wears a pair of wide bracelets. According to legend, long ago, in the primeval forests of the Awa Mountain, large wild man-eating bears lived. It was known that if a bear caught a person by the hand, it would not let him go but eat him. One day, a beautiful Wa girl was picking mushrooms on the mountain when she saw a wild bear coming towards her. At this moment, the clever girl took out a bamboo pipe for drinking from her basket, put her right hand into the pipe, and let the bear hold it. Feeling so sure that its food would not be able to escape, the bear held the bamboo pipe tightly to it and grinned conceitedly. Seeing the bear pay no attention to her, the girl withdrew her hand from the pipe discreetly and escaped from the danger. From then on, all the Wa girls, when going out, put their wrists into bamboo pipes just in case. As time went by, wide bracelets replaced bamboo pipes as a token of luck. Nowadays, most of the wide silver bracelets worn by the Wa women are five inches wide and engraved with all kinds of beautiful patterns.

The headmen of the Wa villages or tribes have their own dressing style. They wrap their heads with red cloth. Sacred figures such as the sun, moon, stars, dragons and bulls' heads are embroidered on their clothes. Two doors are also embroidered to show that their ancestors were once the entrance guards of "Sigang Li". The pattern of two dragons holding the sun in their mouths is embroidered on their underclothes, which can be worn by no one but the village headmen.

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