Thursday, February 3, 2011

China Journal Day 18 Longsheng Yao Ethnic Minority Part 2 of 2

Today we welcome the Year of the Rabbit for Chinese New Year! Wishing everyone health and happiness, prosperity and success. On this festive note, we continue with our China trip in Longsheng, where a group of Yao Ethnic Minority girls welcomed us with their wonderful singing and dancing. Each of their songs ended with a loud and cheerful whoop but the last one finished with the most joyous cry as everyone in the audience joined in!

This led to the second part of the show, a wedding demonstration where 2 girls appeared under a red umbrella with red handkerchiefs over their heads. The narrator explained this would be a typical marriage outfit for the Yao bride. Their fellow troupers surrounded them and held hands singing happy tunes, which would also be part of the actual ceremony.
The 'brides' then stood waiting as the Yao ladies searched the audience for 2 suitors. Yells of excitement came from the crowd, especially from the back of the hall where some guests were eager to participate!
Finally 2 'grooms' were chosen and brought to the front, the Yao prefer males with glasses as this meant they read a lot of books and highly educated. They were adorned with big fabric bows on their chests and hats with tassels on their heads, now they looked more like Yao grooms. The brides' veils were removed and the 'grooms' were teased into entertaining. After a children's song and an out of tune pop song, with much laughter from the amused crowd, the men's buttocks were pinched by the Yao ladies. For the Yao, nipping your bottom means they like you.

Some other Yao facts I learned, did you know women are higher in status than men in their society? After marriage, men take on the women's family name. The most popular last name in the village is Pang, there were about 300 people with that name.
Next is the hair combing demonstration. Four ladies untied their locks to show their length, the one on the stool has the longest hair. She handed the narrator 2 locks of hair removed from the up-do, one was cut from her hair when she was 18... there was no white hair as they used a fermented rice paste to wash their hair... I missed out on some facts here as I could barely understand the presentation, it was in Mandarin and too fast for me. It was said the Yao keep their ancestor's hair but I do not know the reason.
Soon after the ladies began to gather their hair and twisting them around their heads.
A snapshot in motion as they circled the hair around their foreheads, pinning them in place which took no time at all.
The one on the left with the longest hair took the most seconds to tidy up. I began to notice the hairdos were slightly different from one another.
There are 3 kinds of hairstyles. The girls whose hair were wrapped in black fabric (the ones who sang and danced) meant they were single and unmarried. Shown below in the middle, wrapped in a bun with no fabric denote she is married without children. To her left and right, their hair in buns but with a bulge in the front indicate they are married with kids.

***Important note to male visitors: If an unmarried Yao girl unwraps her hair in front of you, you have to stay behind as she only unwraps her hair for her husband on their wedding night!
For the last part of the show, the audience was invited to sing and dance with the Yao ladies. I wanted to join them very much but felt inclined to record this joyous event.
The guests were then led down the stairs lined with singing Yao gals, who continued chorusing until every single visitor had left. Pictured below offerings of tea made of rice, a genuine custom of Yao hospitality. At the performance a lady was weaving through the audience with this drink but I did not have any until now, the tea tasted light and sweet.
Pictured below the pleasant but playful expression of the lady on the left as she gazed at me. Remember the Yao tradition of pinching butts?
Everyone got their behinds tweaked as they passed including mine! Oh the delight on their faces, I could still hear the merry giggles. The Yao truly knows how to show their guests a good time.
As everyone left at the same time, there was a shortage on vans so our guide Linda instructed us to stay with the group until an empty one returned. We wandered nearby and observed some crafty Yao women creating away next to their goods for sale.
Captured below this older lady's costume was different than the ones we saw, the weave was much more detailed accompanied by the use of navy blue. It's very pretty but I much prefer the red blouses. By the way, the Yao people we visited is called Red Yao, called Hong Yao in Mandarin, because they like to wear red.
This lady was weaving a traditional belt on a loom held by her mouth and hands, she continued on one tiny row at a time.
A younger lady was very concentrated on her needlework, she was sewing a very elaborate design onto a small piece of white cloth.
Across the dirt road, a group of ladies were also working on similar pieces of cloth, this must be part of their costume, but which part?
Other ladies sat down around them, these 2 in red tops held baskets filled with souvenirs, postcards of their village, people and costumes, and silver bangles with bells that jingled a merry tune. They smiled with sweet anticipation, there is more to come on this wonderful tour of Longsheng, stay tuned next week as we continue our China adventure!

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