The Cloth Drying Festival of Yao People in Longsheng on Sixth June
2010-06-28Life in Guilin
Longsheng isn't simply the home of Chinese most picturesque and well renown Longji Rice Terraces/ Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces, it's also home to a rich variety of ethnic minorities all living together. Longsheng is the home of not only the Zhuang people (in Ping'an Zhuang Village) but also a stronghold of the Yao people (in Dazhai Yao Village), two of China's most advanced and unique ethnic minorities. The Yao people are easily identifiable due to their unique red garments; this had led them to being called the "red Yao people". A unique custom of Yao people occurs every year on the sixth day of the sixth month, know as the "clothes drying festival", all the women within a Yao community take their most elegant, treasured clothing and then place it in the sun, this achieve the dual purpose of protecting the clothes from being damaged by worms but also adding passionate atmosphere to the Cloth Drying Festival. Despite an increase in living standards over the past decades the Yao people by virtue of their isolated geographic position are able to maintain their unique culture and customs.
The clothes drying festival and the solar flare festival both occur in June in Guangxi (the sixth of June In the lunar calendar), commonly referred as "The Half Year Festival". For these communities located in Longsheng in Guangxi these two festivals are even more important than Chinese New Year, the festival is held on the sixth day of the sixth month because it's believed that this is the day when solar light is most vibrant and therefore the most effective day to dry clothes to ward away insect plagues. The day of these festivals is far from normal within these communities, piles of beautifully embroided pink and red clothing can be lying at the front doors of houses, when the sun sets bamboo vessels filled with gasoline are lined up along the rice terraces and lit, leaving an amazing vista of burning lights dotted throughout the black warmth of the summer night, this amazing spectacle is accompanied by a extravagant fireworks display. Truly a unique and unforgettable experience!
Cotton weaving: A traditional and intricate cloth manufacturing method. The Yao people still use traditional wooden looms to create the most stunning pink and red clothing, although mass-production of clothing is more than common-place in China, now the Yao people in these isolated communities are still continuing producing the high-quality clothing which is a key part of their culture.
Grinding rice with a mortar and pestle: A test of masculine strength and a display of virility with the Yao community, while woman are left to weave and create delicate intricate artwork, men grind rice as a way of showing strength and character. Division of labor amongst men and women in the Yao community is still very prevalent.
Hair contest: This custom is localized to one small village of only two-hundred people in Huangluo Village, located between Ping'an Village and Dazhai Village, Longshen. The inhabitants of this village are obsessed with beautiful, long hair. The women in the village pride themselves on having long hair with the average length being between one to two meters, amazing the village in listed in the Guinness book of record for collectively having the longest hair length in the world! These women never use commercially available shampoo instead using a homemade recipe that is passed down through generations, in summer girls can be seen sitting outside platting each other's hair. Every year all the women in the village to up against each other to see who has the most luxurious, longest hair.
--- By Brett Hartley-Wilson (VisitOurChina)