The Va ethnic minority mainly resides inYunnanProvincein southernChina. The Va areas abound in paddy rice, and dry rice is widely planted. The staple food of Vas is paddy rice.
The ways of cooking staple food include boiling porridge, soft rice and dry rice. Vas usually have two or three meals a day.
The meat mainly comes from home-bred pigs, cattle and chicken. Besides, they also catch and eat rats and insects. Many Vas keep bees to produce honey. They take the honey twice or 3 times a year, and eat with the bee pupas.
According to the Va custom, the housewife cooks and serves the meals.
Vas pay much attention to festivals and related dietetic rites.Bengnanni(the Va's New Year), Sowing Day, New Water Day, New Fire Day and Wooden Drum Day all contain sacred concepts, and should be accompanied by rich foods. For example, sowing begins when the cuckoo birds sing. Families of all villages will prepare various kinds of foods, gather on a slope, and hand the foods to a senior to allocate to people. Then the young people begin to sow, children carry water, and girls sing and play musical instruments. When the dining time comes, two rows of food packages wrapped in banana leaves are placed orderly on the ground. There are neither bowls nor chopsticks. After washing hands, each one takes a package and sits together to have the meal. It is interesting, because it harmoniously combines labor, music, love and cooking, and shows the natural morality of Vas.
Wine is the best drink of hospitable Vas to entertain guests. It is made through leavening, and helps people cool down and refresh.
The Vas' wine rites are varied. Sometimes, the host takes a sip first before offering it to the guest, who must drink up the wine, showing the sincerity of both parties; sometimes, the host and the guest squat on the ground, and the host offers the wine with the right hand to the guest, who, after getting it with the right hand, pours a little on the ground, indicating offering to the ancestors, and both parties drink up the wine, showing they are as close as in the same family. Besides, the Reconciliation Wine is used for conflict mediation. The rite is attended by the conflicting parties, and presided over by a third-party village head person friendly to both parties andDamoba(the priest). Both parties propose a toast to each other, speaking of the hurts and damages brought by the other party, and accusing themselves of their own faults and mistakes; then they present a cattle rib and a piece of wax with a hole in it to each other, implying that they should be friendly to each other; then the comperes pour water for the two parties to wash hands; the two parties place a huge stone on the ground to show everlasting friendship, and the party responsible for the mistake compensates the other party with a certain amount of properties; finally the two parties eat and drink together to celebrate the reconciliation.
Vas usually doe not drink tea with dried sweet fruit but drink bitter tea instead. The way of preparing tea is special: baking the homemade tea (usually green tea) in a small aluminum pot till it turns golden and sends out fragrance, putting it into a small earthen jar with a big base and small mouth, filling tea leaves to about 2/3 of the pot's capacity, pouring in fresh water and leaving a small wooden chip at the mouth of the jar, boiling it with charcoal and pressing down the tea leaves with the wooden chip occasionally to prevent the leaves from overflowing. When the water is nearly dried up, add in more water. When the remaining water is reduced to about a half, the tea wine is ready to serve.
People of the Va ethnic minority, no matter male or female, usually smoke tobacco, male and female alike. There are two ways of smoking: one is smoking with a pipe, and the other is with a water pipe. When going out or working in the field, Vas always hang a pipe on the waist, and carry a tobacco box woven by bamboo slips with them. The water pipe is made of bamboo tube of 6cm in diameter and 60cm long. It is called water pipe because some water is poured into the pipe (about 1/3 of the volume), which helps to reduce smoke and tar content. If you visit a Va family, the host will hand a smoke pipe to you with both hands, and invite you to smoke their homemade tobacco.
Most Vas do not eat eggs, and do not present chili as a gift. It is forbidden to step on pig slaughter stones, touch sacred ovens with hand, bring ginger into the house, or hunt in the sacred woods. Guests must seek permission before entering the village, and should present wine, meat or sugar cane as gifts; after the guest enters the house, only the fireplace in the outer room can be used to cook food and boil water; the guest should prevent the host from killing chicken; if the host offers chicken, the guest must offer the chicken head in return.
Chewing betel nut is a common hobby of Vas, male or female, old or young. It is said that chewing betelnuts does good to teeth.