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Danu Festival for Yao People

Danu means "do not forget." The Danu Festival, also known as the Ancestral Mother festival or the Yao New Year, is one of the grandest traditional festivals of the Yao ethnic group. It is scheduled for the 29th of the fifth lunar month. However, the Yao people don't celebrate this festival annually. They only hold the festival once in two or three, or even five years. In some Yao communities, the Danu Festival is celebrated once in every 12 or 13 years.

Before the Danu festival, all the Yao families will clean up their houses, prepare sticky rice cakes and rice wine and slaughter pigs and lambs to entertain their relatives and friends with lavish food and dishes. On the festival day, they will gather at the village common ground, singing, dancing, beating copper drums, blowing suona horn, performing martial arts and playing ball games. Among all the festive activities, copper drum dance, usually involving two men and a woman, is always the top attraction. After the copper drum dance, the Yao people set off dozens of or even hundreds of powerful firecrackers all at the same time in the village ground.
There is a widely spreading legend about the origin of this festival. In the far ancient time, there were two great magic mountains facing each other. The left one, looking like a great warrior, was called Buluosi. In contrast, the right one looked like a young girl in dress and was thus called Miluotuo. Every year they became a little bit closer. So after 995 years, the two mountains were actually approaching each other. On the 29th of the fifth lunar month of this year, a deafening thunderbolt suddenly struck the earth. Exactly at the same time, the two mountains were cracked. A man called Buluosi came out from the mountain Buluosi, while a woman called Miluotuo out from the mountain sharing same name. They married and gave birth to three daughters.

When Miluotuo was aged, she told her three daughters: "Children, now that you have grown up, you have to live on your own." Therefore, her eldest daughter, carrying ploughs and harrows, settled down in plains and live on cultivation. Her offspring are the Han people. The second-eldest daughter left with a burden of books and her children fostered the Zhuang ethnic group. The youngest daughter, taking millet and hoes, developed paddy fields and planted different kinds of crops inside mountains. She became the ancestor of the Yao nationalities. Soon afterwards, the youngest daughter came back to her mother's home in tears, telling Miluotuo that the crops she grew were eaten up by field mice, beasts and birds. To try to help her youngest daughter, Miluotuo gave her a copper drum and a cat. When beasts and birds came back onto the third daughter's fields, she followed her mother's advice, beat the copper drum and scared birds and beasts away. Meanwhile, the cat caught all the field mice. A good harvest was thus guaranteed in that year.

Since then, on every 29th of the fifth lunar month, the birthday of Miluotuo, the three daughters carried lavish gifts and came back home to join their mother and celebrate harvest. This finally evolves into a festival celebrated by the Yao people.

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