Maonan Folk arts
Maonan people are song lovers. Songs are an important
their daily life. There are three kinds of
songs, which are sung during different occasions—two
in antiphons, responsive songs sung by two persons or
two parties, and one in solo. Of the two antiphons, one
is sung for amusement, the other for celebrations. The
solo is sung to narrate legends and history of their
Mask-dance is another popular art in Maonan area.
On festivals or important market days, song contests are
held between men and women for entertainment. The
contestant that gains the upper hand often wins applause
from the audience. Songs of this kind consist of eight lines. Each line is made up of seven syllables. These
are called bi in Maonan.
The singers compose impromptu words. Another kind of antiphon also has eight
lines, with each line comprising five syllables. Songs
of this kind are sung during weddings or other
celebrative events. These are called won in
Maonan. Such songs are prepared beforehand. A third kind
of song is sung in solo, also prepared beforehand,
Pikian in Maonan. A
bigian has four lines,
each line consisting of seven sylla-bles. In June 2004,
I observed such contests with my own eyes in Si'en
Town-ship, the seat of Huanjiang County.
Diudao (see picture, courtesy of Mr Qin Zikun)
is a spectacular dance with wooden masks and is
particularly worth mentioning. Usually there are about
to thirty actors in such a dance. This kind of
performance also functions as a short religious
repertoire, which is intended for entertaining both the
immortals and the
mortals during the rituals. The themes
include Maonan traditional legends and stories with
Taoist and Buddhist content. The accompaniment is mainly
such as pottery drums, gongs, and
cymbals. Sometimes wind instruments such as the
bungbi are used. No stringed instruments are
involved in such performances.
Maonan are good at handicrafts. Among the most
characteristic items is
dimkava (hat-below-flower) ― a bamboo hat lined
with printed cloth.
This is intended as a gift to a girl
from a young man when they are engaged. It is woven from
fine bamboo strips and attractive cloth lining.
Unfortunately, very few people possess the skill to make
these wonderful hats nowadays.