Maonan Folk arts

       Maonan people are song lovers. Songs are an important part of their daily life. There are three kinds of songs, which are sung during different occasions—two  are 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 ancestors.
       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, called 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.
       The Diudao (see picture, courtesy of Mr Qin Zikun) is a spectacular dance with wooden masks and is particularly worth mentioning. Usually there are about twenty 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 percussion instruments such as pottery drums, gongs, and cymbals. Sometimes wind instruments such as the bungbi are used. No stringed instruments are involved in such performances.
       The 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.

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