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Legacy of Primeval Dances

For Oroqen people, who engage themselves in hunting in the Daxinganling and Xiaoxinganling mountains in northeast China, there is a folk story about "combination between hunter and female bear". A series of sacrificing ceremonies was carried Out in hunting. The folk dance named "Black Bears Fighting" is just the heritage of primitive totem worship activities.

The "Black Bears Fighting" dance is per formed by three persons. They put their hands on their knees, imitating movements of a bear while shouting "Hamo, Hamo". Two performers shake their heads and shoulders, depicting a fight between bears by one attacking the other's shoulder with his jaw, while the third performer acting as a mediator between them. The movements are simple and the shouts vehement. (Fig.2-1) The "Jumping Tiger" and "Swan" dances performed by Ewenki women also imitate actions of a beast or bird, accompanied by shouting, showing their worship for totem.

As a form of legacy from ancestors, "Munao Carnival" of the Jingpo nationality in Dehong Prefecture of Yunnan is a typical example.

It is an annual grandeur folk ceremony, when all villagers, in rich dresses, sing and dance to their full satisfaction. First, they erect four wooden pillars painted with fern leaf veins. Then they put two long knives of jingpo nationality between the two pillars in the middle, thus forming a special atmosphere. According to the jingpo legend, the fern leaf vein signifies the winding ways their ancestors covered when they migrated from the Himalayas, which is also the route of dancing. The two long knives remind them of the difficulties they overcame in farming and hunting, so that when they begin to dance happily, they can bear in mind the hardness their ancestors experienced and carry forward the spirit of unity and struggle. (Fig.2-2)

No matter "Black Bears Fighting" or "Munao Carnival", the dancers' dresses and manners all reflect the charm of the time. The women, in particular, become so vigorous that some even join the military band with long boots on.

Some dances and folk customs are preserved with the ancient musical instruments. "Lusheng" (a reed-pipe wind instrument) and "Bronze Drum" dances are of this kind.

In one article from The Book of Songs a young man held a reed pipe wind instrument, playing freely while dancing. Meanwhile, he called for girls in the room to dance together with him. The love expression today by playing a lusheng is similar with that 3,000 years ago.

According to Miao customs, it is important for the youth to play the lusheng and dance in choosing lovers. Different tunes have different meanings and are played in different circumstances. People dance differently and take different activities according to them.

If a girl loves a young man, she will tie the colorful band woven by herself onto his girdle and dance with the music he is playing. If the young man is excellent and plays lusheng well, he will be tied by many girls. When the girls dance with the colorful bands in hands, it is like leading the sheep, so the dance is called "Qianyang" (leading sheep).

"Taohuadai" (asking for colorful bands) is performed on the night of the "Lusheng Festival". When the elders take the children home, the youths are reluctant to leave, so they begin to play meaningful tunes, such as "Girls, Please Give Your Beautiful Band to Me" or "Please Tie the Colorful Band onto Lusheng and We Are Happy Together". In this way, they express their love for girls. If a girl loves someone, she will tie her colorful band onto his lusheng.

The lusheng dance varies according to nationality The Miao and Dong people make their resonator with wooden plates; while Yi and Lahu nationalities use Hulu (gourd) as resonator, so their instrument is called "Hulusheng".

The lusheng dance of the Miao ethnic group demands more tunes and more skillful dancers. For instance, the "Tianbu" dance is done by two people who stand on three piles. They have to change positions again and again during the Performance while standing on one foot. The scene is very exciting. (Fig.2-3) In the dance called "cock-fighting", two performers must show the whole process of the fight. The performance is remarkably true to life.

The Lahu ethnic group usually entertain themselves with "Hulusheng" dance. People dance happily around the hulusheng player, and the player will give out the sound of birds and imitate fluttering. Sometimes they imitate a turtledove Picking up grain. (Fig.2-4)

"Nuo" dancers usually wear masks. As early as 3,000 years ago in the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the dance was popular. In the Zhou Dynasty, in particular, this type of dance was differentiated as "Guonuo" (at the national level) and "Xiangrennuo" (at the village level). The dance remains in many minority nationalities today Such as the Zhuang, Yao, Maonan, Mulao, Miao and Yi in Jiangxi, Anhui, Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces, which has a strong local flavor .

For instance, "Nuo" dance of Jiangxi Province either depicts the legend in which the goddess Pan Gu separated the Heaven and the Earth or the daily life of common laborers. "Nuo" dancers in Anhui walk on stilts and wear masks while performing, expressing their wishes of sacrifice to their ancestors, praying for blessing and dispelling the evils. "Shigong" dance is one form of "Nuo" dances, showing the magical power of gods of nature, local nationalities and Taoism. Meanwhile, it reflects reality. In "Shigong" dance of the Yao ethnic group, "Nuyou" dance is found, telling a story about the third daughter of the Dragon King under the sea who swam out of the water, was transformed into a Yao girl and began to dance. The Maonan ethnic group called this dance "Tiaotao", of which there was a program depicting the god of land wooing a girl named Sanniang. While performing in some mountainous villages, dancers have to put masks on their foreheads, letting the audiences who are standing on the surrounding slopes to see them clearly.

The "Chamo" and "Chagma" in Tibet and Mongolia nationalities are a kind of temple dance of the Tibetan Buddhists, which help propagate religion and entertain both man and deities. Both of them have deep relations with the "Nuo" dance in ancient times. The Yonghe Lamasery in Beijing is a palace for Tibetan Buddhism, and its dance is called "Tiaobuzha" (driving ghosts). During the Qing Dynasty, the Yonghe Lamasery sent 184 lamas to the royal court in each New Year's eve according to the lunar calendar to perform "Tiaobuzha" and read scriptures in order to dispel ghosts and pray for blessings. On the last day of the first lunar month, grand "Tiaobuzha" ceremonies would be held in the Yonghe Lamasery. At the beginning of the 1950s, the Yonghe Lamasery continued Such activities, with Manchu and Han cultures integrated. (Fig.2-5) As pointed Out in Chapter I, the Dongba dance and music (together with dancing scores) is also a relic of primitive belief. All of these show people's yearning for a better life, so they have been carried forward generation after generation.

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