Yi Traditional Village Gains New Vitality

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Waipula, a village in Yijiu City, Yongren County, Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, is a Yi village that was built during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 ). Known for its beautiful natural scenery, as well as its unique historical and cultural values, Waipula was listed as a national-level traditional village in China in 2014.


Waipula means “village built on slabs” in the Yi language. The Yi people refer to the village as such because it is surrounded by three mountains and surrounded by two rivers.


Its average temperature throughout the year is 25℃ and its forest cover rate is 78%. Many trees are over 100 years old.


In 2019, Waipula was named a national-level forest-rural village by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.


On the hillside, near the entrance to the village, is a wooden observation deck, from which one can have a panoramic view of the village. Seen from there, the shape of the village resembles a crane drinking water from a valley.


The traditional Yi dwellings are well preserved. Most dwellings are three-story buildings with a quadrangle courtyard.


Waipula Academy, built on the original site of the village committee office building, is the center of communication and exchange for the village.




Although the exterior of the academy has been carefully restored to ensure its integration with the village, its interiors reflect the fusion of traditional and modern styles.


The academy includes a hostel, a reading room, a multipurpose room and an agricultural workshop. The academy organizes various training courses for the villagers and various colorful activities for the students.


Yi women learned to make coffee, bake bread and arrange flowers at the academy.


The Pumen farm, near the academy, extends over nearly one hectare. The farm has a vegetable growing area, a fruit and vegetable picking area, a fruit garden, a livestock area, a pond, a composting area and a garden. an area of ​​grass.


As they strictly adhere to an ecological and organic mode of cultivation, the villagers do not use pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.




Waipula women are known for their excellent Yi embroidery skills. Yi embroidery, an intangible cultural heritage in China, has a history of over 1,000 years. It is an essential part of traditional Yi clothing. Various exquisite Yi embroidery designs are sewn on Yi’s clothes, headwear, shoes, pillows, wallets and bags.


The goatskin jacket, a traditional unlined garment made from the skins of black goats, is part of the traditional costume of Yi men. The jacket, thick and warm, can also be used as a cushion to sit on.


The village is known for its deep heritage of popular culture. The village is always full of chatter and laughter during traditional festivals including the Torch Festival, Dragon Festival, Fishing Festival and Rural Music Festival.


Behind the primitive appearance of the village lie advanced concepts of conservation and development.


In 2017, to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Women’s Development Foundation of China worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Mary Kay (China) Cosmetics Co., ltd. and China International Economic and Technical Exchange. Center to launch the SDGs Demonstration Village Project in Waipula.




The project has brought new vitality to the old village. The organizers pooled and used the resources of all segments of society to increase women’s incomes and realize the coordinated development of economy, society and ecological environment, mainly through vocational training and creation of a Yi embroidery cooperative and ecotourism. cooperative.


“My family has eight people. Our annual family income has reached 150,000 yuan ($23,076). I work as an embroiderer, my parents raise goats and black pigs, and we also grow mangoes,” explains Xia Xuefang, an employee of the ecotourism cooperative.


The project has enhanced women’s self-confidence and harnessed women’s unique advantages, and has enabled women to be project beneficiaries and participate in rural revitalization.




Women who once focused solely on tobacco planting have gradually tapped into new business opportunities, such as the ecotourism industry, cattle ranching, and the planting of mangoes, chestnuts, and rice.


By helping the women to become independent, particularly economically, the village has been transformed. The Chinese government removed Waipula from its list of poor villages in 2020.


Along with its remarkable sustainable development in recent years, the village has attracted an increasing number of tourists, who wish to experience the beautiful landscape and experience the Yi culture.


The local art troupe, formed by dozens of women, has become a highlight of the village’s ecotourism industry.



Pictures of Zhang Jiamin


(Women of China English Monthly January 2022 issue)

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