Yao, culture of

With a population of over 2.2 million, the Yao live in mountainous villages scattered over 130 counties in the Guangxi Autonomous Region and the provinces of Hunan, Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou and Jiangxi. Most are farmers, but some manage forests. There are many small- and medium-sized factories in their areas, making farm machines, chemicals and cement, and processing timber. Half of the Yao speak the Yao language, while the rest speak the languages of the Miao, Dong, Zhuang or Han Chinese. They cherish a magnificent oral literature, and singing is an indispensable part of their life. During the spring ploughing or when people open up wasteland or engage in any form of communal work, one or two selected persons will stand aside, beat their drums and sing.
Young people often sing in antiphonal tones through the night. Some folksongs are beautiful love songs, others recount Yao history, legends about the creation of the world, and ask questions of each other or tell humourous stories. The Yao waist-drum dance is frequently performed in China and abroad, while The Yao Dance’ (Yaozu wuqu) has long been part of the repertory of many orchestras in China. The largest Yao festival is the King Pan Festival on 16 October, during which they worship their king and ancestors with long drums and sing for three days in celebration of the birth of their king. Their religion is heavily influenced by Daoism.
See also: autonomous regions; Daoism among minority nationalities
Litzinger, Ralph A. (2000). Other Chinas: The Yao and the Politics of National Belonging. Durham: Duke University Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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