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Stool Dance of the Miao Ethnic Group


People of the Chinese Miao Ethnic Group, dwelling in southeastGuizhou Province, enjoy many ancient and distinctive traditions. A couple of favorite customs are playing lusheng (reed-pipe wind) and the stool dance, both of which  continue to be highlights of Miao festivals and major events.

The Miao's most important celebration takes place after their autumn harvest. Men play lusheng while women dressed in gaily decorated costumes perform a special dance using stools as props.

During New Year celebrations, lusheng music can be heard and the stool dance seen everywhere in Miao villages. In fact, at every get-together the Miao people dance. Elderly members of the minority may be too old to swirl around with stools, but they eagerly watch the fun from the sidelines. Smiling kids wearing New Year outfits excitedly sway to the beat.

Miao people usually wear short skirts when they do the stool dance, and there is an interesting story about this tradition. It is said that one day 300 years ago, an old Miao woman was walking home in a long skirt that was stained with excrement. Dressed in the dirty skirt, she stepped up to analtartooffer a sacrifice to the deity. The deity was offended by her garment and punished her by killing her with a lightning bolt. To ensure the future of the clan, Miao people later decided that their women should wear short skirts instead of long ones.

Legend holds that the stool dance originated at the birth of a Miao chieftain. The chieftain's mother delivered him after a three-and-half-year pregnancy. He was born plump and had a red spot on the middle of his forehead - signs believed to bring fortune to the whole tribe. At his one-month party, all of his relatives and the villagers nearby came to celebrate. The drinking party lasted for three days and nights and before it came to a close, the baby chieftain's father was so intoxicated that he grabbed a wooden stool and began to dance with it. His stumbling steps and pounding on the stool caught the attention of all the guests, who immediately grabbed stools and began dancing themselves, continuing on until daybreak. Since then, villagers have celebrated the birth of Miao babies by grabbing up stools for a dance.

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