• 中文
  • Home > Travel > Cultural Folkways

    Production of Miao ethnic group

    2023-02-22 16:32Source:http://www.huaihua.gov.cn

    Agricultural Customs

    Manure the Paddies    On the eve of the Qingming Festival, the paddies are divided into several parts after being plowed three times and raked four times by the Miao people in Mayang County. The base manure is carried to the paddies on a sunny day, commonly known as “manuring rice before hand”. On that day, the whole family are busy working on the farm, symbolizing the start of spring of the year. The (red) bean cakes and Chinese bacon are fried, with knives and sacrificial offerings prepared nearby the paddies and wells, and in front of the Earth Temple, praying for favorable weather for the rice seedlings.

    Launch Rice-Transplanting    The rice-transplanting is usually launched at the end of April or early May in the lunar calendar. On this occasion, the seedlings are transplanted into the field, which is called the “rice-transplanting launching”. In the early morning, the host takes the lead in pulling out several bundles of seedlings, indicating that the seedlings transplanting is launched. Then, the old and young in the family, as well as relatives and friends, arrive to give a hand, either pulling or delivering seedlings, or harrowing the paddies before transplanting the rice seedlings. On this day, delicious dishes and rice wine are served on the table. Sacrificial offerings are set up before the shrine, warehouse, and cattle’s gate, praying for a bump harvest. On the completion of the rice transplanting, a banquet is held once again.

    Pray for Rice    In the seventh month of the lunar calendar, a rice-praying ceremony is held by the Miao people in order to prevent diseases and pests from harming the seedlings during the heading and flowering period. The households make a joint effort to request a wizard to preside over the ceremony. Pigs and sheep are butchered as sacrificial offerings, accompanied with dances of dragon lanterns or grass dragons, and villagers gathering to worship the gods at the Tianwang Temple or Nanwang Temple under the guidance of the wizard. Afterwards, with the gongs and drums, dragon dances are played around the rice fields. On the ridges of the fields, the dragon head repeatedly sweeps across the paddies, symbolizing wiping out pests and eradicating the God of Plague. It often lasts from 7-9 a.m. to 13-15 p.m. After the group dinner, the remaining meat is shared by households. Before and after the rice-praying ceremony, the Rice Seedlings Opera is played sometimes.

    Breeding Customs

    Span the Fire     The newly purchased livestock before entering the pens of the host is picked or carried to span the fire, burned with a stack of paper money and incense, as well as a handful of thatch at the entrance, yelling “Best blessed after spanning the fire”, which bespeaks dispelling the plague and praying the livestock for prosperity.

    Summon “Back”    It is customary to summon the livestock back in the Miao families on the occasion of butchering or selling. In butchering the livestock, a pinch of paper money is burned, yelling “Come back as soon as possible, may you grow as fast as a horse.” And in selling the livestock, crying out “Come back as quickly as possible” implies that the more you sell, the more you earn. If the livestock is unsold, it should be sprayed with mist and dew before entering the enclosure, in case of being strange and shy to the other livestock in the pens.

    Abnormal Crows of Roosters     Although roosters are favored by the Miao families, they are to be killed due to the abnormal crows. On the occasion of  crowing before the dawn, it is believed to be sinistrous—Crows would invite bandits and thieves at 19-21 p.m., and fire disaster at 21-23 p.m. Furthermore, in the case of a hen’s mock crow, it is also regarded as unlucky—Either the parents or the siblings will die off. As a result, the butchering of the rooster or hen would replace the human’s death, thus turning ill luck into good, and  finding  some way of tiding over a crisis.

    Hunting Customs

    Hunting Pheasant     The bows, crossbows, shotguns, nets, forks, sticks, and other tools are self-made in Mayang Miao Towns. The capture of wild birds and small animals is done personally, often involving traps to preys. The traps would be explicit and implicit. The explicit ones are usually nets, laid on the paths that wild animals must pass through.

    It is a routine to follow the track of birds perching in the forest, and the wild animals haunting the net. For the implicit traps, small holes are to be dug out in the narrow paths where beasts are bound to pass at night, with iron clips or rope ends placed inside, concealed with decorations, and tied with ropes in the hidden traps to nearby small trees. Once the beast steps on it, the harder it struggles, the tighter it is trapped. What is most distinctive is hunting pheasant. For the hunting, a female pheasant must be tamed and a circular fleabane is set with holes in the middle, covered with branches, weeds, etc. The hunters keeps muttering the spells to avoid mountain gods, especially those known as “wandering hunters”. After reaching the mountain, the hunter sets up a tent and blows bamboo whistles to imitate the crowing of pheasants. He also sets off the tamed female pheasant to lure the pheasants in the mountain before shooting and hunting nearby.

    Hunting Beasts   Hunting beasts in mountains is usually a collective action. During the slack farming seasons, many groups of Miao people in Mayang come out to hunt beasts. Before rushing to the mountains, experienced hunters are selected as the head to unify orders. All hunters are summoned to the hunting ancestor to pray for the safety and success. Upon hearing the three bamboo flutes of the hunting head, the hunters lead the hounds to the gathering point outside the village, reticent all along the way. When coming across the Temple of Earth on the way to the mountain, the hunting head will tie a straw sign and place it in front of the temple to show respect for the mountain god. On the occasion of the beast shelter, hunters are divided into groups, each with a hound. At the sound of a bamboo flute, each group releases the hound. If the sound of the hound is heard intermittent, it is a sign of cluing. If the sound of the hound is intense and moving, it indicates the discovery of a wild animal. If the intense sound of the hound stops in one place, it tells that the beast falls into  prey. A judgement is made by the hunters based on the sound of the dog and arrive in time, gradually circling and finally shooting at the beast. On their returning from hunting, when passing through the Temple of the Earth in the valley, the prey should be placed in front of the temple to sacrifice the God of Mountain. When returning to the village, the prey must be sacrificed in front of the God of Hunting before distribution. If it is a large wild animal, hunters would gather to hold a feast and reward the hounds.

    Wetting Every Beak     There is a custom of equal distribution for hunting among Miao people. For hunting wild animals, especially large beasts, the heads and furs are granted to the hunting leader, indicating high recognition and respect for their bravery. The rest body of the prey would be equally shared among other hunters, even with passersby.

    Fowlers’ Taboos     Several birds are prohibited capturing among Miao people in Mayang. Foremost, the magpie usually nests and breeds in trees around the village. It is believed that it is a bird that sends good news to people and has always lived in harmony with human beings. During the spring time, magpies are cavorting around the fields with the plowmen, sometimes standing on the back of the cattle, and sometimes following the plow to forage. And the cuckoo is believed to herald the spring, calling on the people to start the farming work for a bump harvest. Swallows are esteemed as a messenger for harvest and usually build nests in clean and bright houses. Therefore, they are not allowed to be captured. In addition, blackbirds are greatly favored due to their beautiful feathers and touching chirping. Therefore, they are well-loved and kept as a pet.

    Handicraft Customs

    The indigo is planted for dyeing. Starting from the second month of the lunar calendar, the indigo stems or roots are preserved since the previous year. It is best to choose moist and thick soils, dug with a pit about 4 inches deep, and placed with indigo stems with a section left on top. Weeding and fertilizing are needed along the way. In the ninth month of the lunar calendar, the indigo turns very lush. At this time, the branches and leaves can be cut off and soaked in a bucket filled with water (1 kilogram of indigo plant and 8 kilograms of water). After the indigo leaves get rotten for a week, the residue is removed and thrown away. The rest is the pure indigo, which is added with an appropriate amount of lime water. Then, a wooden paddle is used for stirring until bubbles turn up. Settled for a while, the top water is filtered out with indigo left on the bottom. As for the preservation of indigo roots and stems, it is similar to keeping sugarcane seeds in reserve, with one end buried in the soil and the other end exposed to the ground, covered with freeze-proof straws and soils.

    Blacksmith’s Launching Day    Before the smithy chimney starts to work, crisscrosses are daubed at the furnace by the the blacksmith, holding three sticks of incense with three piles of paper money burned aside, and bowing three times praying for good luck.

    Shipping Customs

    Since ancient times, there have been many people engaged in water transportation in Mayang, and the “Mayang Ship” is renowned far and wide since the Song Dynasty (960-1279). In 1932, there were 94 shipowners and 347 sailors across the county. In 1936, there were 297 ships sailing between the Yangtze River and the Yuan River. In 1947, there were 240 wooden sailboats of 2-20 tons in Mayang, shuttling between Changde and Mayang. More than 80 ships of over 30 tons were transported across the Yuan River and Yangtze River. The shipping customs come into being among the weather-beaten sailors.

    Worship the God of Water    When setting sailing, the God of Water is worshiped to pray for a favorable wind and safe journey. Thus the sailors enjoy the feast, eating chunks of meat, but not allowed to drink the liquor. Even the leftover wine of the worship must be poured into the river.

    Worship the God of Panhu   As long as there is a Panhu Temple along the way, the ship is called a halt, with incense and paper money burned towards the temple.

    Sacrifice to Crows   On the occasion of steep reefs and high waves along the Yuanjiang River, a sacrificial ceremony is held by sailors. On one hand, in memory of the Fubo General, sacrificial offerings are set up to be best blessed for the sailing. On the other hand, crows are to be sacrificed. Sailors, before their dining, toss the cooked rice grains into the air, feeding the flocks of crows flying above the river. It is assumed as auspicious for crows to snatch for the rice as much as possible. By reconciling themselves, the sailors resume their adventure. 

    (Translated by Tian Xia)