The Achang ethnic minority mainly resides in Yunnan Province, southern part of China. With agriculture as its primary industry, it is famous for rice planting. In the past, Achang believed in the Hinayana at large. Its main religious festivals are such as Jinwa (Close-Door Festival), Chuwa (Open-Door Festival), the Burning Cabbage Festival and the Water-Splashing Festival. Apart from religious festivals, there are also many local special traditional festivals such as the Firebrand Festival, the Woluo Festival, the Flower Watering Festival and the Spring Festival, among which the Firebrand and Woluo festivals are larger in scale andricher in contents than the others.
On each lunar February 4, the Achang ethnic minority holds the Woluo Festival, one of the important traditional festivals of the Achang people. In Achang language, Woluo means amusement near the house. Legend has it that this festival is held to memorize the primogenitor that created the world.
On the eve of the festival, people in every village put up an altar of 4 square meters with two decorated archways in the middle, on which they paint the sun, moon and stars above and two color figures of Achang, one male and one female, below symbolizing two ancestors. On the top of the archways, there is a wood-carved arrow on full bow erected to represent the arrow used to shoot down the fake sun.
The grand rite of the ancestor worship is presided by the Huopao who will troll the myth epic of his people to praise the great achievement of the two creators. Then following the Huopao, people sing the original and simple Woluo Melody around the altar and perform the Woluo Dance, which takes the nature view of sun and moon as the stage scenes. The dancing and singing will go on the whole night. Besides, there are some recreational performances such as the martial art, singing in antiphonal style, swinging, and spring lanterns, etc. The festival carries through under an atmosphere of piety, pleasure and auspices.
Lunar January 4 is contributed for the commemoration of the deeds of the two legendary primogenitors of Achang, who eradicated the banes and created benefits for the people. On the occasion, people will scarify the best dishes to him. Afterward, they will slaughter dogs and eat dog meat with taros. If the boa can be caught on the very fete day, it is considered as an auspicious sign.
The festival is held on lunar June 24. On that day, people will slaughter swine and cattle for the sacrifice in order to pray for a bumper harvest as well as drive away pests and disasters. On the festival, raw pork and rice noodles are cooked for everybody. In the evening, people wander around the village with lit firebrands.
The Achang ethnic minority celebrates the same Water-Splashing Festival as the Dai ethnic minority. It is a good opportunity for the youngling to choose their lovers. Girls' families often prepare eight delicious dishes to welcome springals who are coming to court. Only after the numberof the diners meets the requirement ,people can get seated. The guy has to walk off with the chicken head from girl's family under cover. The guy with the chicken head has to drink, as a kind of punishment if the girl finds the chicken head, otherwise the girl has to drink. If the pilferer is caught on the spot, he will not only be penalized but also teased by girls. After the meal, the guy has to give money to the girl according to the cost of the dishes without being noticed by her.
As a traditional holiday of the Achang people, theHuijie Festival usuallyfalls in mid-September of each Chinese lunar year. The Achang people believe in the Hinayana. Huijie used to be a religious get-together. Legend has it that a Ge Da Ma (In Achang language, it means Bodhisattva) overcame many difficulties on his way to the heaven for acquiring the scriptures and finally succeeding in it. Then he decided to return to the world on September 15. To welcome his return, the Achang people arranged the black dragon and white elephant; young men and women collected rice and prepared vegetarian diet for the offering. This gradually became a traditional festival.
On the occasion, men dress in blue, black or white frocks with buttons down the front and black trousers, with a bag on the shoulder. And they wear a long piece of headcloth. Married women put on clothes buttoned down the front with long and narrow sleeves, and skirts covering the knees. They also wrap puttees and black or blue head cloth. Girls mostly set their braids over their heads. They have on their chests four ranges of silver buttons on juxtaposition, on which hang four silver chains. They also wear ornaments such as flowers, chaplets, and earrings. During the holiday, the main activities includeplayingwhite elephant and black dragon dance.The white elephants and black dragons are made by handicraftsmen in the villages, who use bamboo as the frames, paper as body cover and cloth as trunk. While playing the white elephants, a man hides himself inside and draws the rope on the pulley to control the swing up and down of the trunk. Young men in attires wave the black dragons.
At the beginning of the Huijie, people tie red silk on the white elephant and black dragon. By beating drums and gongs, men and women, young or old, gather around the elephant and dragon playing team, going around the village once. Then they all come to the square, and encircle the elephant and dragon. Abruptly the drums, gongs and cymbals start beating together. People begin to perform the merry and bold Elephant-Leg Drum Dance. While dancing, the cymbal beaters keep standing side on side with the drummers, jumping left and right, extending and drawing back from time to time, body heaving like wave. They make a large stride ahead while dancing, then squat by retreating, with striding, retreating and squatting three times. When the performance reaches the upsurge, the crowd of onlookers cheer and applaud. At the same time, the white elephants shake their trunks much more frequently and the black dragons dance more fiercely.
Seeding Festival and Fresh Tasting Festival
The Seeding and Fresh Tasting festivals are both traditional feasts of Achang, which respectively fall on March 10 and August 15 on Chinese lunar calendar. On the festival, every family tidies up the courtyard and room, and prepares fish, rice noodles, acid food and rice wine. Then they go to the field to pick a pocket of the biggest taros and a maize cob with two spikes. They enlace the corn and tarosarounda bamboo pole of around 1 meter long,andplace it in the left ortheright corner of the main room. Afterward they braise fresh rice and slaughter a fat chicken, and put them on the altar to recall their ancestors. Married women will be taken back home for family reunion. After thedinner, men will put on blue, black or colorless short frocks and black trousers; women will dress themselves in shirts buttoned down the front and wear aprons. They also wear silver chaplets, on which there are ornaments such as silver chains, fringes and silver badges. Young girlswillset their braid on the head. They get together in the front or at the rear of the village, enjoying dancing and singing.
Seeding and Fresh Tasting festivals date back long ago. Legend has it that long ago, there was an old woman of Achang ethnic minority, who always kept the plump seeds of various cereals and sent them to others in the planting season in the coming year.People loved and respected her, because she always helped others and improved their farming skills. In August of one year, she passed away before the harvest. All the people felt sad and sorry on such news, because she could not taste the corn she had planted and wore the new dress she had woven.They processed the rice, legumes, and vegetables she had planted into delicious food, and made new dress of the cloth she had woven, which they sacrificed on her altar.
Since then, on each lunar August 15, every household of Achang tidies up rooms and prepares an ample feast with rice, legumes, melons and fruits they have harvested that year.That is the origin ofthe Fresh Tasting Festival. In March of the next yearafterthe old woman died, people planted the seeds she had left. Hence, on March 10 of every year, people usuallyholdthe Seeding Festival.
Up to date, taking advantage of their married daughters coming back home, the Achang people exchange seeds of various crops with one another to increase the output .