Miao in Guizhou, China have many interesting annual festivals such
as Tiao Hua Po (dancing on the mountain slope), Sisters’
Meal Festival and Miao New Year. They also have a festival held
once every thirteen years - The Fertility Festival.
Fertility Festival of the Miao is called “Guzang Festival”
in Chinese;“Neniu” in the Miao language (the language of my own
home town). It means 'to kill buffaloes to worship forefathers'.
According to tradition, during the festival long ago the Miao sacrificed
many fighting buffaloes to worship their ancestors but this was
regarded as too costly and the custom changed and fattened pigs
are now sacrificed instead. However, I think that individual villages
may make different sacrifices and have various ceremonies for the
festival. I know that the Miaovillage of Fanzhao in Taijiang County,
Guizhou province, celebrated the Fertility Festival in 2003 and
they still used buffaloes for sacrifice. My description of the change
to the festival is based on the one in my village - Langde.
is generally called Langde which consists of Upper Langde and Lower
Langde. My own village is Upper Langde, 32 Kms away from Kaili city
and 17 Kms away from Leishan county. My hometown is located at the
foot of a scenic mountain with a murmuring crystal clear river in
front. Groups of waterwheels by the river side produce beautiful folk
songs day and night.
father said that we have this festival every thirteen years and
the festival runs for three consecutive years. People do not kill
fattened pigs during the first and second years but only in the
final year. So the most special year is the last one, namely the
13th year. As you can imagine, it is not easy to see many in one
lifetime. I cannot remember what the last one, 13 years ago, was
like. Fortunately my village held the festival from 22nd February
to 2nd March this year (2004 ) and the one this year was a very
22nd February was the first day of the festival. On the late afternoon
of this day relatives came to visit their relations in my village
carrying a cluster of carp, steamed glutinous rice and a duck. There
is a taboo that female relatives usually do not come on this first
day, only men. Women come on another day. When the male relatives
got to the edge of my village, they set off fire crackers. More
fire crackers indicate the larger wealth of the relatives and the
greater importance of the family of the host. This year 16 relatives
came to my home. They were from 8 families; they were my two uncles,
two brothers-in-law, my father’s brother-in-law and my sister-in-law’s
three brothers. Some special guests came to visit my family too.
They were a Japanese friend and 12 American tourists led by me.
In the evening, the family and relatives ate the food that the relatives
had brought. The meal included carp, steamed sticky rice, duck and
23rd of February was the second day of the festival. On this day
every family got up very early to boil water. Then, at about 6.00
a.m. in the morning, the relatives killed fattened pigs. Each family
killed two or three fattened pigs depending on the number of the
relatives visiting. I know of one family in my village which killed
four pigs. My family killed three. There is a taboo that the head
of the household cannot carry the sword to kill the pigs but the
relatives must carry out this task. However, the host can help with
boiling the water to get rid of the pigs' hair. At about 10.00 or
11.00 a.m. everyone began to have an excellent meal. During the
meal, everyone must eat three huge squares of the fattened pork
so that they will have good fortune in the future. The meal was
of pork and pork offal but no green vegetables. There is saying
that "the family will become poor if they eat vegetables with
the afternoon, after eating this lunch, the villagers and the shaman
climbed the highest mountain in Langde for a special ceremony. The
purpose of the ceremony was to worship the mountain dragon and to
ask him to come to the village and enter each home and visit each
family living there so that the families could have good fortune
in the future. In the afternoon of 23rd February it was raining
in Langde. However, this did not stop the villagers from holding
the ceremony because this was their big
and I think that they had a special determination to do so.
On the mountain, the men and the shaman all wore traditional costume.
A duck - symbolizing the mountain dragon - whose bill was pierced
through by a tiny rope, led the way from one hill to the other.
The shaman followed the duck and held the rope. The other men and
the villagers followed behind the shaman beating on a the bronze
drum and playing lusheng (bamboo flutes). The ceremony on the mountain
lasted until the late afternoon after when the participants returned
to the village.
24th of February was the third day of the festival - the day of the
cock. According to custom, it was forbidden to hold any ceremonial
activities on this day. The villagers and their relatives could only
drink rice wine and eat. However, the relatives usually began to return
to their own homes on this day. On their departure from the village,
their host gave each family a huge pig's leg weighing about 10 to
12 kilograms. The most esteemed relatives were given a pig's leg with
25th of February was the fourth day of the festival. On this day,
the ceremony was to take the spirit of the mountain dragon inside
each home to live there so the family would enjoy good fortune in
the future. At 8.45 a.m. the ceremony began. The shaman and a group
of men all wore traditional dress. These men were the leading people
of the ceremony and of the community.
must be well thought of by the villagers before they can be selected
as participants or else they cannot play the roles. When the ceremony
started, the shaman went in front leading the way to each home.
On entering each family's house they were offered cups of rice wine
by the head of the family and fire crackers were also set off. While
in the house, they played lusheng and danced in a circle to the
rhythm of the bronze drum. When leaving the house, the owner gave
them some red ribbons and cigarettes. There are more than 140 families
in my village so it was nearly 5.00 p.m. before they arrived at
my home but we still had some good pictures. It took them a full
day to finish visiting the whole village.
26th to 28th February there were no ceremonies but the villagers
ate and drank in each other's homes, mainly all in the same clan.
Female relatives also began to participate on these days.
the afternoon of 29th Febrary the villagers started to dance to
lusheng and bronze drum and a magical tree was planted in the centre
of the ground. Men and women in festival dress danced together,
the girls wearing plenty of silver. I noticed that all the girls
who had married into other villages or places also came back for
the dancing. Everyone from my village joined in the dancing, whether
rich or poor, male or female, young or old. Seeing this scene, a
deeply homesick feeling rose up from the bottom of my heart and
I really wished I could stay and join in with them. I was full of
regret because I had to leave in the evening of 29 February to take
care of my American friends.
darkness fell more people would come as the next day would be the
last day of the festival and the festival would reach its climax.
On 1st March girls from other villages would also come to join in
the dancing. But I had to leave on the evening of Feb 29 because
we had to go back to stay overnight in Kaili and my tour had to
depart. The festival had gone on for many days, but I cannot forget
it. I cannot forget the scene of people dancing together and it
was such a shame I could not stay to the end - so I hope I can join
them the next time in 13 years!
article has been submitted by Tony Chen Hualong, a Miao from Langde
village in Guizhou, China.