The Dai is one of the 56 official ethnic minorities in China, with a popu-lation of about 1.2 mil-lion, mainly live in Dai Autonomous Region and Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Region in Xishuangbanna, known as "The Land of Peacocks" in south part of Yunnan Province, south-west China. In the past, they were called 'Baiyue', meaning a vast living area. Dai is the name the nationality calls itself, which means freedom .
The history of contact between the Dai and Han peoples dates back to 109 B.C., when Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-23A.D.)set up Yizhou Prefecture in southwestern Yi (the name used to signify the minority areas of what are now Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces). The Dais in subsequent years sent tribute to the Han court in Luoyang, and among the emissaries were musicians and acrobats. The Han court gave gold seals to the Dai ambassadors and their chieftain was given the title "Great Captain." In the 12th century, a Dai chieftain named Bazhen unified all the tribes and established the Mengle local regime with Jinghong as the capital, and called it the "Jinglong Golden Hall Kingdom." According to local records, the kingdom had a population of more than one million, and was famous for white elephants and fine-breed horses. It recognized the Chinese imperial court as its sovereign. When Bazhen ascended throne, he was given a "tiger-head gold seal" by the Emperor, and the title "Lord of the Region." Previously, the Dais in the Dehong region had established the Mengmao Kingdom, with Ruilijiang as the capital. During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the Dai area was subordinate to Yunnan Province and the system of appointing hereditary headmen from among the ethnic minorities was instituted; this system was consolidated during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).