The Wooden Drum of Wa Minority

The Wa people regard the wooden drum as a divine tool that has exceptional power and is the symbol of existence and prosperity. They believe in many gods, of whom, Muyiji is a powerful god that creates all things in the world and has the right to decide their life and death. Legend has it that, long ago, at the beginning of history, a disastrous flood devoured almost all the lives on land. It was Muyiji that saved the Wa people with a wooden trough, which later enabled them to survive and develop. Therefore, in most of the traditional sacrificial rites, the Wa people pay a high tribute to the wooden drum and worship Muyiji, praying for his blessings by singing and dancing.

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Wooden drum dance of Wa people (Photo from chinadaily.com.cn)

The most common wooden drum dance is "beating wooden drum". The Wa people use wood drums and cymbals as major instruments, which are blended with songs and chanting, to create the main melody with strong and harmonious rhythm full of encouragement and impulsion. Men wear red ribbons on their heads and wide pants; women, with white ribbons on their heads, wear bracelets and skirts, and their long hair swings loose and wild. The dance is grand: At dusk, a long haired female dancer stands on the wooden drum, raising hands to the sky. Two men stand at each end of the drum with drum sticks in hand; other actors are around the drum, dancing slowly to the singers' call, the drum and cymbals. It's a mixture of slow and fast beat, anger and sadness, anxiety and happiness. As the highlight comes, the dancing steps become orderly and powerful, straightforward and uninhibited, grand and magnificent, which, seeming to shake the sky and the land, fully describes the Wa people's vigorous vitality and their spirit of fighting against nature.

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Wa women swings long hair loose and wild when they perform wooden drum dance. (Photo by Zuimeiguzhenwang, from blog.sina.com.cn)

The content and the performing techniques of today's wooden drum dance have reached a higher level. It has adopted some movements of the Wa women such as "swinging hair", which thus adds to the charm of Wa's art. Wooden drum dance is a shining pearl in the culture of wood drum.




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