Edit Blog Post
Published: December 11th 2015
....And then, at seven, there's drum (and cymbals).
It's a sign for beginning.
Main street which might be the only real street. A boy with tousled black hair kneels on wooden cart and drums a big red drum. Sometimes he exchanges the stick with friends. Atmosphere is relaxed, teasing. »Oh, you've missed the rhythm!,« »Look at the stranger, you want to drum too?« The crowd is gathering.
The line of people comes out of a storage house behind Liu's house. They are carrying paper dolls of eight immortals – dolls with candles that shine from their “bellies”. There is one big dragon, composed from long chain of similar paper dolls. People are playing different musical instruments. There are another four dragons – or lions?, this is south China, after all, they have their south lion for festivities - made from »textile«. Two dancers inside each dragon are jumping after colorful »balls«, also lighted from inside by candles. There's one big lantern in the shape of a rabbit. (It is a year of the rabbit.) And more. Loud firecrackers everywhere. Occasional fireworks in the sky. Crowds, crowds, crowds! The line of people stretches towards a
building that's probably governmental. A long speech follows... Then the line of all this paper dolls starts its long job: it will visit every house and store in the main street... Liu Daoxing is main talker whilst visiting. Now I know why his singing voice was cracked and I am ashamed for letting him sing to me – he must have been extremely tired. His health is simply amazing.
Dragons follow him into every building, circle it, »consecrate« it... «Wishing good fortune, good luck«.
Any departing from any house is followed by firecrackers. People talk, smoke, watch, and run for cover. Sometimes you have to run down the street with your head down and it feels like being in the ditches of First World War.
House owners have big plates of small food ready for guests. Again, as many times before: as much as this ceremony is necessary, important, urgent, it gives the feeling of somehow being also totally relaxed. Suibien, they would say. I see boys exchanging their places in the dragon's bellies. (My writer’s imagination cannot help saying: when they grow up, they will be men who have seen the inside
of a dragon.)
The line is also followed by a man who writes something in his notebook. First I'm guessing that he is checking the list of houses, and then I realize they are giving him money, wrapped in hongbao
, red paper. He is writing down the amounts. Some houses give him RMB 20, mostly they give RMB 50. It is a payment for organization, and dancers (which are locals anyway). Things are, really, despite the surface cacophony, organized.
Chunmei says: «Actually we all say that people who live in the main street are lucky. Of course the dragons will not go everywhere in town. That's impossible! But in 10 or 14 days – that's how many days this festivity might last - they will come to all of the houses in the main street, and every evening until 15th in the month they will do it for approximately three hours, - depends on the weather, of course.«
Later I try to lift this lanterns and dragons, and they are heavy. The task of carriers and dancers, which are basically amateurs, is hard.
«We do not do this every year, it is too much labor. But we celebrated like this last year, and maybe we will do the same next year.«
»Do you know the difference between what we do and what they do in the city?,« asks Chunmei.
»Tell me. «
»In the city, this is a game, « it is obviously important to her that I get her meaning – hopefully my interpretation is right: in the city this is a presentation for tourists
. «Here it's for real. We mean it, seriously.«
I nod with a smile. Only later I start thinking: which ritual is this, exactly, and to whom does it belong?
To Miao people? To Yao, Zhuang, Han...? All of them...?
China, any China, is always so easy on mixing things together.
I'm looking at this elders in »traditional« clothes, and so many young ones in the midst of them – going to school or work to Nanning or Guilin or province of Guangdong; and again I can't imagine how they put together
two worlds, one that echoes from that drum, and the other one of modern teachings from their working place and schools. But then I stop myself. We are all living in a world like this right now. We are putting together “our” religions, and tractors and Facebook, and cold war and singularity, and they, well, they put together drums and earrings and skyscrapers and QQ, pollution and online shopping, ancestors and western movies. There are differences, of course, but one thing is similar: we all have to deal with much more simultaneously than we ever had to before.
(The article was written in early 2011, after my first year of living in China, Nanning; I did not want to change it much. This kind of festivity can be seen in countryside in Guangxi, but you have to be a bit lucky, for the dates are never predictable.)
Tot: 1.9s; Tpl: 0.05s; cc: 13; qc: 83; dbt: 0.0435s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb