Count her leg rings if you want to know one’s age
Traditional clothes of the Ximeng region is the most typical in Was. Most men wear black or blue sleeveless short garment and trousers with wide bottom. Women often wear sleeveless short close-fitting pullovers with “v”-shaped collars, and wear red or black tube-shaped skirt with horizontal stripes. They usually wear their hair down, use silver hoop or bamboo rattan to tie the forehead and hair, and wear silver earrings, silver neckband or necklace stringed with plastic beads.
Hair hoop is the most characteristic head adornment of Wa women. Its shape is like the half moon and it is wide in the middle part and narrow on both ends with a length of over 30 centimeters. The width of the middle part is about 10 centimeters. It is usually made of silver or aluminum. The Wa women generally wear long hair but they don’t braid it. Their hair spreads down on shoulders, over the two sides of the cheeks and back. The hair is held together by the hair hoop from the forehead to the back of the head, which not only can assure that the hair doesn’t fall forward to block the eye sight, but also seems artistic and in good taste, and it is simple and convenient to use the hoop. This kind of hair hoop is only used by the Was in different nationalities of China, so it has become one of the simplest and plainest symbols to identify the Was.
Another distinctive character for traditional clothes of Wa women is that they wear several or tens of bamboo or rattan hoops round neck, arm, waist and legs. Minor girls add a leg hoop every year with the increase of their age, so there is a saying “count her leg hoops if you want to know one’s age”. This dressing character is an expression of the Wa bamboo culture. The Was have lived in the Awa mountain region in the Southwestern Yunnan since ancient times where the weather is warm and green bamboos grow up into a wood. They live in bamboo building, eat bamboo shoots, use bamboo chopsticks and spoons, sit on bamboo stools and sleep in bamboo beds. Bamboo occupies an important status in Wa people’s life. It is expressed in clothes customs by making all sizes of hoops with bamboo strips and wearing them on different part of the body.