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Carnival Girls’ Festival: From Western Hunan To The World

Source:Shaoyang International CultureWriter:AiZhe XiangYunfengTime:2014-07-08Clicks:

 Carnival Girls’ Festival: From Western Hunan To The World
——Sidelights of China Suining April 8 Girls’ Festival
The whole city fascinated with wizard and exorcist wind and visitors meeting in Miao villages on April 8.
That day, Suining----“the world’s miraculous oasis”----was drunk, immersed in the fascination of Miao people’s carnival, which spread a mysterious atmosphere that invited meditation. The carnival made 380 thousand Suining people vigorously excited and joyous, and indulged Miao girls who were enthusiastic like fire and smiled like flowers. It showed and presented goodwills, grand splendidness, local mellow wine, mysterious folk culture and magnificent celebration to the guests from all corners of the country.
That day, hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the country were also drunken , deeply impressed  and cheered by the green hills and clear water, simple and hardworking Miao people, mysterious culture and wonderful performances as well as the wild happiness of the festival. All of them made visitors enjoy themselves so much as to wander endlessly among green hill and streams.
The day was May 6 of the Gregory calendar or April 8 of the Chinese lunar calendar, when the 2014 Girls’ Festival Of Suining Miao Nationality took place.

Colorful Celebration Attracting Visitors From All Directions
It was a sunny day after rain, sunrays radiating in the sky. The square in front of Suining Nationality Stadium was lively and boisterous with colorful flags and slogans hung high above. Hundreds of thousands of Miao people in splendid festival costumes and visitors from all directions gathered here, standing closely side by side and awaiting the opening ceremony of the 2014 Girls’ Festival.
Performing groups from fourteen minority townships were giving their performances, like playing village god, blowing the suona horn, wedding customs, straw dragon dancing, exorcist plays and bamboo pole dancing, through streets and lanes of the county city. The performances were a grand feast to visitors, with strong national folkways and customs. The large square array dance “Married Girls Back Home” performed by 168 girls attracted crowds of watchers.
Miao people’s “April 8 Girls’ Festival” is a grand traditional celebration with a long history, which is observed in Miao nationality areas with Suining County as its center. In recent years, the festival has played an important role in developing local economy, displaying Suining’s image, promoting national culture and enriching people’s life. More and more flourishing today, the festival has become a special cultural top brand.
The festival was meticulously planned and fully prepared. A month before the county authorities had established the an organizing committee, which intended to present to the outside world a splendid celebration, and with beautiful festival dresses, make the oasis a sea of happiness.
The festival arrived at last. People present were extremely excited. Upon the declaration of the festival’s opening, applauses, cheers and laughters arose on the square. At the celebration, there were colorful performances. People got moved and excited, drawing out their cameras or sell phones to take pictures of the celebration while appreciating the wonderful performances. Such performances as “Miao Sisters’ April 8”, “The Beauty Of Miao Nationality”, “The Sketch Of Miao Villages” and “Wearing New Shoes” pushed the celebration to climax..
A Mr Li from Guizhou said, “How happy Suining people are! The Girls’s Festival is even grander than the Spring Festival. It feels joyful.” Fifty thousand visitors came from Hubei,Guangxi, Guangdong, Yunnan, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. They found themselves in a carnival atmosphere among green hills, dancing and singing to the performances, forgetting themselves.
Mysterious folkways presenting splendid culture
The Girls’ Festival, a most important festival, is observed on lunar April 8 every year in memory of Yang Liniang, an ancient heroine in Feishan Valley. With her brother imprisoned because of his rebellion against the merciless government, Li often suffered from hunger. One day she had an idea. She picked blueberry leaves from hills to make juice with which to dye rice black.. She took the black rice to her brother in prison. It was Lunar April 8. The prison guards saw the black rice and had no intention to rob it. After eating the rice her elder brother obtained boundless strength. He broke the iron chains on him, and  then brother and sister fought their way out of prison. Ever since, on the day every year, Miao families fetch their married daughters back home to eat black rice. On this occasion, Miao people gather together to hold a solemn ceremony memorizing their forefathers. They celebrate their festival by eating black rice, drinking rice wine, singing and dancing.
The theme of this year’s festival is “the whole city fascinated with wizard and exorcist wind, and visitors meeting in Miao villages on April 8”. On May 6 married daughters of Miao nationality went back home to the traditional appointment. Miao villages were filled with happiness. Everywhere people could be seen singing and dancing. They were preparing for the grand festival, which would demonstrate their splendid national culture and customs to their full.
The festival was a magnificent activity that combined the exhibition of culture, the advertisement of tourist products and the promotion of tourist resources.
In the well-known China’s historical cultural town----Zhaishi Town, and China’s historical cultural villages----Dayuan Village and Shangpu Village, thousands of villagers in their national costumes sang and danced. Girls consecrated cups of fine rice wine to visitors and guests at the village gates. Dayuan Village focused on the mysterious old wedding custom, activities including drinking wine at the village date, blowing the suona horn, the wedding ceremony, carrying one’s wife on the back, singing love songs, swinging-swaying, Miao-wrestling, and so on. Shangpu Village concentrated on wizard and exorcist legends. The activities were mainly playing village gods, fishing, making New Year rice cakes, climbing a rope, offering sacrifice to old trees, and so on. The most exciting was the bonfire evening party, at which thousands of people, villagers and visitors, surrounded the bonfire singing and dancing. Zhaishi Town highlighted its handcrafts to make appear the past prosperity of the old street with 100 handcraft shops, displaying ironware, silver ornaments, black rice, oil tea, succades carved with flowers, and so on.
On an acting field, three actors, dressed in long robes with masks on their faces and black veils on their heads, were singing understandable Miao songs. This is a traditional programme, a local man said, which has a history of a thousand years. Of the actors, one acted as the male god while the other two were female gods. In spring they would go from door to door praying for the people safety, harvest and prosperity.
Their old legends, mysterious folkways, elegant dancing postures, resonant songs and all kinds of beautiful performances impressed themselves on visitors so much that they could not help singing high praises for them. Many visitors had pictures taken with Miao girls wearing their national clothes. They wanted to keep their wonderful experiences of the festival for ever.
Madame Li, who came from Jiangxi, attended the bonfire party. When she watched the programme “Crying Over Getting Married”, she was all tears, sobbing, “While watching it, I recalled the occasion when I was about to be married. I felt my parents’ love for me and the difficulty in raising me. I could not hold my tears back.”
Emotional Miao People Inheriting Culture And Flying Hope
The Girls’ Festival contains the essence of Miao nationality’s culture and inherits its classical national folkways. When visitors felt excited, amazed, curious and even fanatical, they felt the changes of Suining.
During the festival, leaders from higher authorities inspected various activities. Deputy director of the provincial Propaganda Bureau Zhou Xiang stated that the protection of cultural relics was the most important in the course of them being inherited and developed.
Deputy director of the provincial Culture Bureau Xiao Lingzhi lit the bonfire himself. He said excitedly, “The successful Girls’ Festival exhibits Suining people’s new style and features of union, struggle and practicality. It attracts a great sum of investment and pours vitality and power into the county’s economy.”
Deputy director of the provincial Tourism Bureau hoped that the county government would speed up the excavation and arrangement of Miao national culture, promote a number of tourist spots with local features and make Suining known widely to the country.
“A green world, an enthusiastic land, a sea of dancing and singing and a new situation of national union, with all these, the festival is a rich cultural feast for visitors.” Deputy mayor Li Xiaokui sang high praises for the festival. He also hoped that Suining would continue to excavate, arrange, inherit and exploit its national culture and folk customs, and that the county authorities would try hard to compose a new chapter of combining tourism with culture, making the Girls’ Festival a province-wide or even nation-wide known cultural tourist brand.”
Suining’s development lies in ecology and its way out in tourism. The county is abundant in tourist resources. According to Party secretary Tang Yuan, the Girls’ Festival entered the list of the second batch of national intangible cultural heritage in 2008. Zhaishi Town was approved as a national historical cultural town. Deng Xiaoping’s commanding headquarters in Suining was listed as a key relic unit under the state’s protection. In Suining five villages were chosen to be on the China’s traditional village list, two of them as famous historical cultural villages and three as national special minority villages to be developed and protected.
“The fine festival meeting prosperous times, Miao wine welcoming fine guests.” Though the festival has rung down its curtain, Suining people and visitors remain in excitement, with pleasant folk songs ringing in their ears. Many visitors plan to stay there for some more time enjoying the beautiful scenery and mysterious folkways. We believe, with its fine ecology, picture-like landscape, special culture, mystical folk customs and the amorous Girls’ Festival, Suining will certainly go out from Miao areas in west Hunan to the world.

(translated by Yi Daoqun)

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