Nonetheless, in attempts to keep the peace and avoid ‘Han chauvinism’ (dahanzuzhuyi 大汉族主义), the government did not intervene most of the time.
This cultural heritage and biodiversity is recognised by no fewer than four UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Unfortunately Yunnan – a grand experiment in human social relations – remains little known outside of China.
After the Maoist period had ended, many people reverted to their traditional customs.
However, it is the economic development and social-cultural transformation which has occurred in China since the 1980s that is now bringing about new changes.
For thousands of years, as the Han dynastic state gradually expanded south- and westward, the peoples of Yunnan developed unique cultural practices suitable to their lifestyles and belief systems.
Whereas the Han Chinese culture produced a severe patriarchy in which women were clearly subordinate to men, the peoples of the mountains engaged in social relationships in which women had much more freedom to choose partners and express their identity.
Yunnan Province in the south-western corner of China is home to twenty-five ‘minority nationalities’, more than any other Chinese region.
As a landlocked peripheral province, Yunnan also harbours an incredibly rich biodiversity.
The Han make up ninety-two percent, while the remaining eight percent are composed of fifty-five ‘minority nationalities’ (shaoshu minzu 少数民族).
Many of these ethnic group classifications are relatively recent demarcations and quite a few of these ‘nationalities’ in themselves contain an incredible amount of cultural, social and linguistic diversity.
In some places, villagers build special ‘courtship houses’ where couples can meet in privacy.