22 February 2007
Happy New Year - Miaos' Flower Pole
From chinaculture.org- Flower Mountain Festival takes place during the two weeks following New Year's Day each lunar calendar year to pray for happiness of the Miaos and bless with safety and prosperity. During the festival, the Miaos get dressed up and go to the large lawn near the village. They play the Lion Lantern Dance, swing, blow bamboo leaves and play the bamboo flute. People erect in the mountain a "flower pole" dyed in red and blue in 12 segments to pray to the god for giving birth to children. Young men and girls riot in dancing and singing and seek their lovers. The entertainment lasts three days, and the Miao villages are filled with animated dance and songs.
On the very day, the erection of the Flower Pole is to precede the activity of the Flower Mountain Festival. The Flower Pole is the icon of the Flower Mountain. It is also the performance tool in the festival. It is made of straight and decorticated fir in several zhang (1 zhang = 3.3 m) high. Afterwards, people plant it in the middle of the Flower Mountain to form the center of the entertainment -- Lusheng ground. The Lusheng players play the Lusheng and dance under the Flower Pole with the contests of climbing pole when playing Lusheng, and climbing pole when playing Lion Dance. There are also programs such as the antiphonal singing, bullfight, horserace, bird match and various martial arts performances, which make the Miaos immersed in great happiness.
The festival not only provides all villagers with the festal gathering, but also the unmarried young people with the chance to seek their lovers. In the mountains south of Yunnan Province, the homemade telephones are installed to enable young men and girls, without knowing each other, communicate with each other or sing through homemade call before date. There is another interesting way of selecting lovers: the young men wander in the crowd. As he found his favorite girl, he will stealthily draw near to her. When he stands at her side, the young man will open the umbrella to cover the girl and sing to observe her reaction. At this moment, the girl keeps silent and skews at the young man. If she finds the young man unsatisfied, she will still keep quiet or refuse by singing. If she likes the man, the girl will look at the young man and sing a sweet song tenderly. As they feel satisfied with each other, the girl will offer her ring to the young man as the keep sack. When the Flower Mountain Festival ends, the spoony girl will follow her lover.
In the Flower Mountain, the most favorable young men are those fellows who climb the Flower Pole while heading down and taking up the Lusheng and pig head. He has to climb up and down keeping playing Lusheng, which can match with the acrobatics. The crowned young man is not only regarded as the hero, but also the icon among the girls. It is said if the young man courts some girl, she will surely fall in love with him.
NPR.org's Flower Mountain piece by Louisa Lim or listen to the story. Credit on photo above, also Louisa Lim.