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Wuming Sanyuesan Song Festival: A Grand Carnivalfor the Zhuang People

2021-05-19 16:24:28   By:China-ASEAN    Hits:

(By Chen Zhiying)When tender green shoots thrive in meadows and romantic cherry trees wallow in blossom, one could safely assume that the Wuming Sanyuesan Song Festival, which falls on March 3rd of the Chinese lunar calendar, is approaching. Wuming County is located in the central-south of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is an important birthplace of the Zhuang civilization and cultures, boasting the reputation of “the hometown of Zhuang people in China”. This year, the Song Festival will be from April 14 to 17, 2021. On that day, there will be more than 30 activities (covering sport, culture, and tourism), from which you can experience authentic Zhuang customs. 

Tips: Sanyuesan now is a public holiday in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, when people can enjoy a two-day holiday.

Origins of the Sanyuesan Song Festival

There are many legendary stories about the Wuming Sanyuesan Song Festival. One of the most popular is about Liu Sanjie, a Zhuang girl in the past. She cared for peasants and despised the vicious landlords. She was very good at singing and inspired people with folk songs. However, the landlords were jealous of her singing and afraid of her rebellious character. They tried to forbid Liu Sanjie from singing, but failed. Later Liu Sanjie was persecuted by the landlords. Since Liu Sanjie boasted the talent of singsing, people called her the “Singing Goddess” and honored her with the Song Festival. The performance Impression Liu Sanjie in Yangshuo is based on this story.

One of the scenes in the Impression Liu Sanjie

Another story is that in the past, the daughter of an old man who belonged to Zhuang nationality was very beautiful and good at singing folk songs. The old man wanted to choose a young man with outstanding singing ability as his son-in-law. Young singers from all over the country came  over one after another. Since then, regular Song Festival has been formed.

Before 1940, the Song Festival was a traditional occasion which was meant to visit graves of the ancestors. Now, it has become a grand occasion using songs to express their emotions. After offering sacrifices to Liu Sanjie, people will sing to challenge each other not only in song but also with wit. Lyrics are usually improvisational and humorous and make everyone burst into laughter.

Tips:Impression Liu Sanjie is a spectacular night show combining music and light, ethnic songs and dances. Under the stage and backdrop of the Li River and surrounding karst mountains, the legend of Liu Sanjie vividly unfolds.

Colorful activities brimming with ethnic culture flavor

Every year, people in Wuming County and people from other places will gather together to celebrate the Festival by holding various folk activities. Some of the most traditional customs and activities include square dances, martial arts performances, embroidered balls throwing, antiphonal singing, sparkler-grabbing, bamboo pole dancing, and Lusheng performances (a reed-pipe wind instrument).

Singing folk songs is the most important activity of the Wuming Sanyuesan Song Festival. Most of the people living in Wuming County belong to the Zhuang nationlity, who are very fond of singing. During the Festival, they would gather outside in the fields to hold “song fairs”. The songs usually are about life, work, love, happiness, sadness, and historical events. The “song fair” held during the Festival is also a good opportunity for young people to engage romantically. Young men and women usually sing in antiphonal style (alternately singing to one another). If a man and a woman fall in love with each other, they would exchange gifts. The woman would likely give an embroidered ball to the man she accepts. 

Besides singing folk songs, bamboo pole dancing is another highlight of the Wuming Sanyuesan Song Festival. Generally, there are 10 bamboos poles needed, two are the “pillow” poles, and the other eight are laid across the “pillow” poles. Eight young men hold the eight bamboo poles’ ends facing each other in pair. With the accompaniment of music, the men will hold the bamboo poles open and close rhythmically. Girls will jump and hop between the poles while singing and performing. This display, especially for the girls with their lightness and delicacy, appears much like flittering butterflies. Those who fail to keep up with the rhythm will be nipped between the poles and will be politely expelled from the dance. All the performer will be trained  for months before the Festival in order to present a spectacular dance to the audience. Visitors are invited to join in this dance, from which they can feel the hospitality and enthusiasm of the Wuming people. Underlying this fascinating dance is the auspicious meaning: success in career and life. 

苏如贤 摄
Dancers performed the bamboo pole dancing in pairs (Photoed by Su Ruxian)

On Song Festival, there is one thing that really cannot be missed. That is glutinous rice. Weeks before the Festival, people in Wuming County will use special wild flowers and leaves collected in the mountains to produce natural dyes to color the glutinous rice, usually red, yellow, blue, purple, and white, producing the good-looking and delicious five-colored glutinous rice. In fact, the rice looks so marvellous that it’s hard to tell whether you’re meant to eat it or appreciate it as a work of art!

Five-colored glutinous rice

People in nearby counties will go to Wuming to take part in the antiphonal singing activity. Therefore, attractions and transportation on that day in Wuming will be crowded, and accommodation may be more expensive.

The Wuming Sanyuesan Song Festival is as important as the Chinese New Year for the Zhuang people. Why not come and join this grand event with your friends? 

Source: China-ASEAN Panorama





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