Bai Baby Boy in Girl’s HeaddressBai Baby Boy in Girl’s Headdress

“Another festival local to the Ta Li region, and in no way connected with any rite known to Chinese religious custom, is held in the spring. This festival is called in Min Chia “Gwer Sa La,” a name which cannot be translated as its meaning has been lost, the Min Chia themselves being unable to give any explanation of the words.”

“The festival also attracts the usual crowd of hawkers and itinerant vendors of fruit, melon seeds, cakes and sweetmeats, who establish themselves along the wayside to catch the custom of the waiting spectators. Mer Ger Yu, where the rites end, and which is also the nearest point to the city on the processional route, is crowded with visitors, who must be fed, and the day becomes a market of some importance drawing merchants from Hsia Kuan and Ta Li as well as from the villages across the lake.”

“…Bargaining is keen and shrewd. No one buys anything until every vendor has been visited, his wares prices, cheapened, and compared, and finally, after many return visits, when the price has been lowered by a nickel or two at most, the sale is made.”

“These fairs in fine weather attract very large numbers of people from the country and even from districts distant three days journey. During the morning all roads and paths leading towards the city are thronged with peasants and traders. Some of the goods sold are brought from districts fifty and more miles away.”

“The street markets which open about ten o’clock in the morning, when the peasants reach the city, and are usually over by four in the afternoon, when the country people set off for the villages before darkness can overtake them on the way.”

“The Yu Tan Hui, or Fish Pool Fair, is so called because it is held on a rocky hillside overlooking the northern end of the Erh Hai Lake, close to a temple where there was once a large fish tank (now dry).”

“…The Fair represents a reunion of all the merchants of the local cities at a site where their peasant customers can conveniently purchase city goods, and in exchange sell, not their farm produce, but the products of embroidery, needlework, carved furniture, coffin wood, building stone, leather work, and wood work. …almost every shop has something intended for women or children, babies’ toys, or the gay caps in the shape of 2gers’ heads, which are favored for baby boys.”

The boy is dressed in a girl’s headdress to ward off monsters who may wish to capture the boy. Boys were seen as more valuable to their families and also to the monsters, so many families saw dressing the boys up as girls as a way to trick the monster and protect their child.

 “During the early years of life, children are left to the care of the women of the household and in poorer families, are carried about on their mothers’ backs to the fields or the market place, until they are old enough to walk by themselves. one a child, especially a boy, has got over this difficult period (first three years), it has a happy life, for the Min Chia are extremely affectionate to children, who, within reason, are allowed to do much as they like.”