BurmeseChineseMinorityEnglish

The homeland of peacocks

In the west of Yunnan Province China, there is a beautiful piece of land, which is named Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture.

Singing and Dancing to Mourn the Dead

Pubdate:2009-05-30

 

  When a shooting is heard in the village, people know someone has just passed away, and they can tell from the sound the gender of the dead (odd for a woman and even for a man). Having heard the message, neighbors and relatives immediately go over to help, taking grain, vegetables, fowls or cattle with themselves.

  There is no special ceremony when a young person dies. But if it is an old person with offspring, there is a grand ceremony. In order to show admiration and love to the dead, since the first night of the funeral, people in the village and from other villages come and perform mourning dances with the family ("Bengdong" in Jingpo, and "Gebenge" in Zaiwa), which lasts to the dawn. The more days of dancing, the more glorified the host. There are two dancing places: in and outside the house. People outside the house roar "wo-le, wo-le" loudly, moving wildly and powerfully, which implicates driving demons and devils away from the village. People in the house dance around the corpse, along with the profound and slow singing and the rhythm of mang gong. There are over 30 body words in the dance, including pure witchery dancing, planting, hunting, fighting, etc. The songs are not sad, but of glad sense. The contents mainly are: complaining "why people should die", recalling the life of the dead, educating young generations on working hard and being a worthy person, and giving thanks for the efforts of the dead to bring up the offspring.

  People who die naturally are buried in the earth. Several months or years after the funeral, the family should hold a ceremony to send back the soul of the dead - along the route on which ancestors moved southward, back to the hometown in the north. If it is an old person, "Gebenge" ("Bengdong") is performed again, until the grave is finished. The most important thing is a three-meter conical grass shed, with the wooden sculpture of a person on top. Colorful pictures are painted on the shed with charcoal, ruddle and pig blood, including the sun, the moon, mountains, waters, beasts, cattle, weapons, tools, crops, etc., to show the dead person's gender, age and main activities when alive. Bamboo sticks are put up around the grave, as many as the person's sons and daughters. The grave mound is built with blocks. When it is finished, there will be no ceremonies any more.

  After the founding of the PRC, the funeral ceremony has gradually been simplified, since it demands huge expense and a lot of time and interrupts the normal work and life. Along with the development of the construction of the spiritual civilization, a new simpler way of funeral has become popular.