Yao People: Cherishing a Magnificent Culture Tradition

The Yaos cherish a magnificent oral literary tradition. As mentioned above, singing forms an indispensable part of their life. When a group of people are opening up the wasteland, one or two selected persons stand aside, beating drums and singing to enliven the work. Young males and females often sing in antiphonal tones all through the night. Extremely rich in content, some of the folk songs are beautiful love songs, others recount the history of the Yao people, add to the joyous atmosphere at weddings, synchronize working movements, tell legends about the creation of heaven and the earth, ask meaningful questions with each other or tell humorous stories. In many of them, the words have been passed down from generation to generation.

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Yao people singing

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Yao people singing

Besides drums, gongs and the suona horn (a woodwind instrument), the long waist drum, another traditional musical instrument, is unique to the Yaos. It was said to have been popular early in the Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The revived waist drum dance has been frequently performed both in China and abroad since the 1950s.

Yaos playing long drums on festivals

Yaos playing drums on festivals

Yaos playing gongs on festivals

Yaos playing suona horns on festivals

The Yaos are expert weavers, dyers and embroiderers. In the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - A.D. 220), they wove with fabrics made from tree bark and dyed it with grass seeds. In the Song Dynasty, they developed delicate designs dyed on white cloth with indigo and beeswax. The product became famous all over the country later.

Yao girl weaving baskets

The Yao dyer



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