Menglian Dai, Lahu and Wa Autonomous County (孟连傣族拉祜族佤族自治县) is, as its name suggests, home to multiple minority groups. Nestled in southwest Pu'er Prefecture in the hill country where China bumps up against Myanmar, it is much more pastoral when compared to many other parts of Yunnan. Some tourists do come and go, but unlike more developed areas, it retains an authentic ambience and largely untouched feel.
Menglian is home to people of the Wa Minority, among several others. Above, a Wa woman takes a break from shopping at the local market to have a puff from her pipe.
People wearing traditional attire are seen everywhere and locally made garments, such as that worn by the Aini woman above, are made by hand and on sale at local bazaars.
A Lahu woman clad in a simple yet elegant flowered headscarf. The Lahu live mostly in southern Yunnan, but a significant number — some 160,000 — reside across the border in Myanmar.
A young Dai minority monk poses for a portrait. The Dai once dominated the area now called Menglian, controlling their own autonomous state until the late Qing Dynasty.
Sprawling tea fields cover much of the local countryside. Pu'er and Lincang prefectures are both known for their bountiful and much sought-after tea leaf harvests.
Late summer is the best time to pick tea leaves. Above, a Dai man works in the fields looking to fill his shoulder basket.
A seemingly surly Aini woman having a toke from her ancient-looking pipe.
Market days in Menglian are especially busy, with people regularly turning out in their best clothes. Above, a particularly well-dressed Aini woman takes a stroll.
Away from towns, or sometimes just outside of them, the landscape is rolling and often lushly forested with a mixture of bamboo, tea trees and eucalyptus.
A Lahu woman searching for a rubbish bin after finishing off a cool drink.
Ancient tradition and the modern world collide. A young monk caught playing inside a monastery with his toy gun.
Cockfighting is a common entertainment in Menglian. Here, two roosters check each other out before going into battle for the entertainment of some Dai monks.
This Aini man proudly displays what he called the "rock and roll pig" (摇滚猪) that he had just slaughtered and was preparing for sale.
A book of handwritten and well-worn Buddhist scriptures hanging on the wall outside a small Menglian temple.
Editor's note: This photoessay was submitted by GoKunming contributor Sean Weatherall, who is currently cavorting across Southeast Asia honing his photography skills.
Images: Sean Weatherall© Copyright 2005-2021 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.