Tujia, culture of

The Tujia, who number some 6 million people, inhabit mountainous areas of Hunan, Hubei and Guizhou provinces, and southeastern Chongqing. The region is rich in rare medicinal herbs, minerals, aquatic products and giant salamanders. Glutinous rice cakes and rice balls are the favourite food, and their dishes are often spicy. Oil tea soup is a speciality. Weaving and embroidery are women’s traditional line of work. Climbing the blade ladder is one of men’s traditional sports which demonstrates their bravery and power. The spoken language is close to that of the Yi (see Yi, culture of), but they use Han Chinese characters for writing and many speak the local Han dialect.
Tujia epics, which are rather imaginative, tell of humankind’s origins and the Tujia migrations and aspirations in dramatic and poetic ways. The Tiaonian Meeting, Zhongwu Holiday and Guozu Festival are the three most important festivals. Among their dances, a hand-waving dance with over seventy ritual gestures to indicate war, hunting, farming and teasing and other behaviour is the most popular. They also perform a folk play called Maogusi as part of Nuoxi (the evil-dispelling drama). The play features monologues, sometimes interwoven with a chorus or musical dialogue in memory of their ancestors’ achievements in exploring the wilderness, fishing, marriage and working. Nuoxi can last as long as six days, which is rare among other ethnic groups. It has attracted much attention from dramatists and dancers in and outside of China, and is regarded as the living fossil of ancient art and culture once prevalent throughout China. There are also festivals for tourists, including piglet running, as entertainment.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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