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Posted in 2018-07-10 20:05
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By Zhang Qian
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, June 15 (Xinhuanet) -- As an ancient ethnic group, the Gelao people today carry on some common cultural features with the Han, while still keeping some of their own cultural legacies.
With a population of 550,746, most of the Gelao live in Guizhou Province, while there are small groups of settlers in Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
The history of the Gelao people can be traced to the “Baipu” people living from the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC) to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24). The “Pu” and “Liao” people living from Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220) to the Southern and Northern Dynasties (AD 420-589) are also closely related to the Gelao ancestors. The people were first named “Gelao” in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907)
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, and its name was formally settled after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
The Gelao language belongs to the Han-Tibetan language family, while the language branch and group are still undefined. They have no written language, but use Chinese characters.
Because the Gelao are widely spread geographically, there are many differences among their dialects. Today only a few of them can speak their mother tongue, and Chinese is the language for communication. Some people can speak Miao, Yi and Puyi languages.
The topography is complex where most Gelao people live. The annual rainfall is higher than the average rainfall of China
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, allowing the people to develop agriculture and industries.
People living on flat terrain eat rice, while people in mountainous areas mostly eat corn and potatoes. They love food made of polished glutinous rice. Some people cook rice and corn together, which is called “gold and silver food.”
They also eat vegetables, bean products and meat. The Gelao people prefer sour and spicy taste. Almost every family makes pickles.
The Gelao people brew wine with corn, jowar and rice. It is called “papo jiu” (Climbing Wine), an indispensable part of etiquette during festivals.
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, Gelao men wear a collarless robe with buttons down the front to the knees. They wear belts and tie the front and back at the waist.
Gelao women wear short jackets and wide-legged pants. The women also sometimes wear black sleeveless robes decorated with patterns. The back part is usually longer than the front. It is a traditional robe called “Gelao Robe.” Both men and women cover their heads with long towels.
The Gelao women are known for their weaving. Their best-known product is “tiedi bu” (iron flute cloth), which is durable and elegant.
Today’s Gelao costumes are almost the same as that of Hans and other groups of people nearby.
Gelao people are also music lovers, with traditional musical instruments including erhu, short flute, suona, gong and drums.
There is a wide range of folk songs in the Gelao people’s cultural legacy
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, including ancient songs, working songs, love songs, children’s songs, and even songs for drinking wine.
The songs popular in mountainous areas in northern Guizhou Province have their distinctive features. They are often sung when people work together. Two middle-aged singers sing chorus or perform musical dialogue in antiphonal style.
The lyrics are usually about arranging work or historical stories. The songs play roles in regulating the tempo of working, spreading working experience and stimulating people’s zeal at work.
“Caitang Dance” (stamping hall dance)
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, reed pipe dancing and lion dancing are among the most common folk dances.
“Caitang Dance” is usually done at funerals. It is a male dance usually performed by groups of three or four people. The dancers change formation quickly while singing and blowing reed-pipe instruments.
Lion dancing on high tables is a very popular entertainment for Gelao people during festivals. It is usually performed by four people — two acting as a lion, one acting as a monkey and another acting as a smiling monk. The monkey and monk wave handkerchiefs to attract the lion climbing the high table — more than 10 meters — and the lion will display risky climbing skills.
The Gelao people believe in polytheism. They worship ancestors, gods in the natural world and hosts. They also adore gods of ox, of trees, of mountains and of kitchen.
The Gelao people celebrate the Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival as the Han people do. They also have their own festivals.
The Beginning of Spring in the lunar calendar is a crucially important day for the Gelao people. No washing should be done on the day, while every family will send smart and capable young men or women to grasp “spring water” in wells
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, rivers, streams or fountains.
Then they set off firecrackers and celebrate the coming of spring. It is said that people will be healthy all year if they boil tea and glutinous rice balls with the spring water.
Eating New Food Festival is on the seventh or eighth month in the Chinese lunar year when grains ripen. At this time, people will gather some fresh grain to husk with mortar and pestle. They kill ox and chickens to offer sacrifice to their ancestors, showing gratefulness for their ancestors’ opening up wasteland and blessing them with the harvest.
Population: 550,746 (2010 national census)
Distribution: Guizhou Province, small groups of settlers in Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Language: Gelao language
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, Chinese, and Miao, Yi and Puyi languages
Religion: Polytheism, ancestors, and the gods of ox, trees
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, mountains and kitchen
Food: Rice, corn, potatoes, bean products, meat and pickles
(Source: Shanghai Daily)
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