Jino Holy Wooden Drums

The Jinos like singing and are good at improvising poems and setting them to music. At holiday gatherings, the young dance to songs sung by elders. Jino festivals often feature singing and dancing.

During the 12th lunar month, flowers bloom and people celebrate the harvest, Zhuoba, an old man of the village, starts to beat the ox hide drum, "Dong-Dong-Dong", hearing these sounds, villagers throng to the Zhuoba's house and dance the traditional "Sun Drum Dance" around the huge drum. This wooden drum is the most sacred instrument for the Jinos. Generally, every village has two sun drums, the bigger Father Drum and the smaller Mother Drum. The main body of the drum is made of a solid round tree trunk. The cylinder-shaped drum is about one meter in length, with a diameter of 50 to 70 centimeters. Both two sides are covered with ox hide, nailed tightly with square wooden nails. In the middle there are 20 wooden handles and square holes used for hanging the drum on ropes.

The Jinos regard the wooden drum as the embodiment of divinities and the symbol of the village, and believe that it can bless and protect the whole village and bring prosperity and abundant harvests. In normal times, the drums are in the houses of Zhuoba and Zhuosheng (another elder whose position is just below Zhuoba), and no one is allowed to touch or beat them. Only when Zhuoba announces the New Year and people have Sun Drum Dances, or in some special circumstances, are the drums allowed to be used.

Making the wooden drum is an extremely important activity for every village and has a set of strict procedures. The first thing is to select one tree and choose a propitious day to sacrifice chickens to the gods and cut the tree. The cutting of the trees is carried out at night, and cannot be seen by women or animals. Preparing drum body takes place in a particular thatched shack in the village. The drum covering is fixed at the very moment of day-break as the Jinos believe that at this time the moon is falling down, the stars are sparse, and the ground is gloomy without light, so that the shadows of the people covering the drum will not fall into the drum. Before covering the drum, villagers kill chickens to offer sacrifices to the drum. When the covering is finished, the ceremony of sacrifice is repeated again, and people dance the Sun Drum Dance. After that, villagers carry the wooden drum, singing and dancing, to the Zhuoba or Zhuosheng's house to be consecrated.

Why do the Jinos have such a great respect for the wooden drum? According to legend, once in the remote antiquity, heaven fell, the earth cracked, and fierce flood-producing storms filled the skies. In the whole world, only the brother Mahei and his sister Maniu—who hide in the base of a drum covered with ox hide, following the direction of the Creator, escaped from death. In order to reproduce human beings, the brother and the sister had to get married and bear sons and daughters, becoming the ancestors of the Jinos. They felt deeply indebted to the kindness of the wooden drum for saving their lives, so they beat the drum when celebrating the harvest in 12th lunar month. When their descendants heard the sounds, they came around the drum one after another and danced for joy to their hearts' content. Since then, the wooden drum and the Sun Drum Dance have been handed down from generation to generation.

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