Folk Songs and Dances
is a realm of song and dance, famous both at home and abroad.
Folk music in Yunnan can be dated back to the Warring States
Period(475-221BC )in the West Han Dynasty (206BC-25), with
unearthed bronze musical instruments as evidence. These bronze
instruments include shengs (a reed pipe wind instrument ),
cymbals, chimes, bronze drums, gongs, and calabash shengs.
The type of instruments found gives us an idea of the form
of music at that time. Folk songs either had a single melody
and were simple yet effective, or they were highly complex.
The music in cyclical form developed from the ``Four Tunes"
of the Yi ethnic group. The multi-part folk songs of the Hani
group has its own musical system which has aroused the attention
of music experts throughout the world. Over 200 different
musical instruments now exist including wood and skin drums,
the seven-note horizontal bamboo flutes and folk dongxiaos
(a vertical bamboo flute) as well as more complex wind and
stringed instruments. Some minority people have their own
folk bands and play complete sets of ancient music.
Folk music in Yunnan falls into three
main categories: song, dance and instrumental music.
Songs are the most common form of
music in Yunnan,and are closely related to folk literature.
They include ancient songs of Creation, sacrifice and
festivals. There are songs of hunting, fishing, pastoral
songs, farming, logging, husking rice and embroidering.
There are love songs, from the ancient" Bashi "love
song to the happy and sad songs performed during the
marriage ceremony, which tell us about the history of
traditional marriage customs. Many minority people sing
songs when handing down traditional knowledge and morals;
and even in lawsuits, they sing songs to defend the
person on trial and pass sentence.
In Yunnan, all ethnic groups can dance.
The forms of dances vary from group to group. Some dances
are accompanied by singing, such as the Tibetans' "Guozhuang"
dance, and the Naxi group's "Erere". Some
are accompanied by wind instruments, such as the Lusheng
dance ( Lusheng, a reed-pipe wind instrument) of the
Yi, Miao and Lahu ethnic groups; some by stringed instruments;
some by drums, such as the big drum dance of the Jinuo
group; the wooden drum dance of the Wa tribe; the bronze
drum dance of the Yi and Zhuang ethnic groups and the
Xiangjiao drum dance( a drum on a pedestal, shaped like
an elephant's leg) of the Dai and Bulang minority people.
The Hani group' s "Bengbacha's" dance is accompanied
by songs and bamboo tubes (a kind of percussion instrument).
Traditional musical instruments include
wind, stringed and percussion instruments, of which
wind instruments are the most popular. They include
the bawu, the hulus (calabash instrument), the xiaomendi
(a small muffled flute) and the tuliang. The most widely
played percussion instruments include the xiangjiao
drum and mangluo (a folk gong).
most typical music includes the Yi group's " Guoshan
Tune " ( climbing over the mountain) played with the
xiaomendi (small muffled flute), the instrumental trio "Qian'e"
of the Lisus, the instrumental quartet" Zhengxuan "of
the Yis in Shiping County played on the flute, the dianhu
(a two-stringed instrument), sanxian and sixian ( three and
four stringed instruments ), the instrumental ensemble of
the Hani minority played with the bawu, caogan, flute, muye,
sanxian, sixian and erhu (a two-stringed instrument) and the
ancient music "Baisha Xiyue" from Lijiang.
Dancing to the sound of music until
sunset when their feet become covered with dust",
this local idiom vividly describes the minority people
in Yunnan who love singing and dancing.
Among the minority dances, more than
a hundred are very well - known. Each minority has its
own distinguishing dances. For each of the minorities,
the dances vary according to the different branches
and regions. For example, the Yi's dances are divided
into the Tiaoyue, Dage, bronze drum, Yanhe, Luozuo,
flower drum and Sixian dances. Most dances are used
at special festivals. There are sacrificial dances,
such as the fierce ox dance of the Dulong ethnic group,
the Tibetans ' sorcerer's dance where the dancers wear
masks, and the Dongba dance of the Naxi ethnic group.
There are dances representing activities such as the
Bulang group' s spinning and weaving dance, the ploughing
dance of the Nu ethnic group. There are dances for special
ceremonies and rites, for example the palm fan dance
at funerals and the "Longpo dance" ( old dragon
lady dance )of the Hani and Yi ethnic groups. There
are festive dances such as the" Dengluoguo"
of the Achang ethnic group, and the big drum dance of
the Jinuo ethnic group and dances for making friends
and for fun such as the Tibetans' Xuanzi dance, and
the Pumi's Datiao dance.
ethnic minorities dance to various musical sounds.
They dance to the sound of drums.
These dances include the big drum dance of the Wa ethnic
group, the bronze drum dance of the Yi and Zhuang ethnic
groups, the Xiangjiao drum dance of the Dai, the Hani's
big drum dance, the Tibetan's Shougu (small drum similar
to the tambourine ) dance, the octagonal drum dance
of the Bai, flower drum and flat drum dances of the
Yi, the Lahu's bamboo drum dance,the fish drum dance
of the Zhuang, and the tinkling drum dance of the Naxi.
Dances to songs.People dance while
singing their own traditional songs. Such dances have
spread far and wide,such as the Dage dance of the Yi
and Bai ethnic groups, Datiao dance of the Lisu group,
"Alili"and"Erere"of the Naxi, "Caitang''
of the Miao, and "Guozhuang'' of the Muosuo people.
Dances accompanied by stringed instruments.
Popular dances include the Tiaoxian,Tiaoyue and Dasanxian
dances of the Yi ethnic group, Xianzi dance of the Tibetans,
the Pipa dance of the Nu and the Yuezuo and the palm
fan dances of the Hani.
dances are performed with bamboo lanterns mounted on bamboo
poles. They include the dragon lantern dance and elephant
lantern dance of the Achang ethnic group, the fire horse dance
of the Dai, Caima (horse step) dance of the Bai and flower-boat
and lantern dances of the Han nationality.
Other dances make use of bells, bamboo
hats, bowls, fans and masks and some are accompanied
by rhythmic clapping or imitate animals, farming, legends
and even everyday life.
Local operas in Yunnan are represented
by Dian opera and the festive lantern opera. Dian opera
originated during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)and included
the three tunes of sixian, huqin and xiangyan and other
tunes from Shaanxi, Anhui, Chu, and Kunqu opera, and
combined local language, music and folk customs.
The Festive lantern opera combines opera, folk songs
and dances. Its tunes have often been taken from the
songs handed down from the Ming and Qing dynasties,
together with Yunnan folk songs, dulcimer melodies and
religious music. It also features separate acts, fan
dances, handkerchief waving, and rattle stick dancing.
Yunnan's ethnic folk operas include
Bai, Zhuang, Dai, Yi, Miao, Hani, Wa, Jingpo, Nuo, and
Nuo opera originated from the ancient custom of driving
away evil spirits and pestilence,and later developed
into a spontaneous performance. It features masks,costumes
and impromptu performances, and always includes a god
driving away pestilence.
Guansuo opera is a variety of Nuo opera. The actors,
who represent warriors during the Three Kingdoms Period
(221 -263 ), wear masks and costumes, and hold weapons
in their hands. It is accompanied by percussion instruments
and the actors perform simple chanting as they drive
away evil spirits and pestilences from door to door
throughout the villages.
Bai opera, originally called the "Chuichui
Melody", dates back over 200 years. It has over
300 different traditional acts and more than 30 tunes.
opera developed from the folk songs, dances and variety shows
of the Zhuang ethnic group. The opera, originally created
in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), has over 340 acts but only
Dai opera is a combination of the
folk songs and dances, literature and art of the Dai
ethnic group. The opera has over a hundred plays. The
traditional ones are based on opera songs.
Yi opera was only recently developed
during the 1950s, and is based on Yi folk songs and
dances. The plays are based on folk legends and practical
life. Its melodies combine folk songs, chants, dances
and instrumental music.
The folk arts in Yunnan, like all
the minority nationalities here, have a long history,
and have developed alongside the local minorities. Some
have local origins, some have been brought here from
other places. No one can count how many there are.
To protect and highlight this precious
cultural heritage, the local authorities have organized
large-scale collection work for folk literature, music
and folk dances, and research into folk architecture,
costumes and adornments, folk opera and art. This will
help to preserve the treasures for future generations.
When you enter the Yunnan Museum and Kunming Museum,
you will be able to see the complete picture of the
Yunnan folk arts and culture, and will have the chance
to appreciate the treasures and wonders of these natural
In 1995, the Yunnan Nationality Museum was set up beside
the beautiful Dianchi Lake as a showcase for the cultural
history of the ethnic groups in Yunnan, with some 10,000
pieces of relics (material objects) collected and over
2000 pieces displayed so far.
We hope that one day, the treasures
and wonders buried deep in the natural "mountain
museums'' will be shared with peoples from all over