The Mulao are an ethnic minority that lives in Guangxi Province, primarily in Luocheng Mulao Autonomous County in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. They are descendants of the Liap and Ling peoples of the Jing Dynasty (A.D. 281-420). The Mulao are also known as the Bendiren, Jin, Ling, Mulaozu, Bujin and Mulam. [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China”, edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company, 1994) |~|]

More than 90 percent, live in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, mostly in Luocheng County. Others are scattered in neighboring counties. In 1993, 30,000 "Mulao people" living in the Guizhou Province were recognized as belonging to the Mulao ethnic minority. The majority of Mulao in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region live in concentrated communities in the Mulao Autonomous County of Luocheng, Xincheng county, Liujiang county, Liuzhou, Hechi, Du'an, and Zhujiang. Other ethnic group lives in the area include Zhuang, Yao, Miao, Han, and Dong people. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences ~]

Most Mulao call themselves “Ling" or "Mu Lao" and a smaller group call themselves “Jin" or “Bendiren" (locals). They were first recorded in the historical books of the Northern and Southern Dynasties. In the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties they were referred to by several names including "Mu Lou Di". In 1956, the name "Mulao" was recognized by the Chinese government with the approval of the State Council. The Mulao language belongs to the Dong-Shui Branch of the Zhuang-Dong languages of the Sino-Tibetan Family. It is closely related to Maonan and Dong and less so to the Zhuang, Buyi, Dai, Shui, and Li languages. Many Mulao can also speak Chinese and the Zhuang, Miao and Dong languages as they are in close contact with the people that speak these languages. Chinese is the language of literacy. ~ |~|

The Mulao reside in an area known as "small Guilin" because of rolling hills interspersed with lush green valleys. The Wuyang and Longjiang rivers cross their territory, Mulao people have traditionally been farmers. The climate is ideal for growing paddy rice, maize, beans, potatoes, and melons. Industrial and commercial crops including cotton, sugarcane, rape, tea, mushrooms, agaric and cassava for money. Their homeland also has mineral deposits of coal, iron, tin, sulphur. In the forests are medicinal herbs. Their industries of iron forging, pottery making and mining are comparatively developed. ~

The Mulao are the 30th largest ethnic group and the 29th largest minority out of 55 in China. They numbered 216,257 in 2010 and made up 0.02 percent of the total population of China in 2010 according to the 2010 Chinese census. Mulao populations in China in the past: 207,464 in 2000 according to the 2000 Chinese census; 159,328 in 1990 according to the 1990 Chinese census. A total of 52819 were counted in 1964 and 91,790 (0.01 percent of China’s population were counted in 1982. [Sources: People’s Republic of China censuses, Wikipedia]

Mulao History and Development

Mulao autonomous prefectures and counties, the blue spec at the bottom

According to the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “State penetration goes back to at least the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) when Mulao villages were required to pay grain tribute to the imperial court. During the Qing (1644-1911) the state grouped households into units of ten, with a chief responsible for taxes and public order. Since 1949, collectives, Communist party organizations, and the more recent township organization represent and enforce state policies. |~|

According to the Chinese government: “Historical records trace the Mulao back to the period of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), when their society seems to have been entering the feudal stage. The Mulao villages paid tribute in grain to the imperial court twice a year. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) the Mulao areas were divided into "Li," under which were "Dongs" — units of ten households. The Dong chief was responsible for collecting taxes and law and order. The Dongs were mostly inhabited by families sharing the same surname. Later, when they increased in size, the Dongs were divided into "Fangs." [Source: |]

“Even prior to 1949, the farming economy of the Mulaos was comparatively advanced. Farming techniques, crop varieties and tools were basically the same as those of their Han and Zhuang neighbors. Oxen and water buffaloes were the main draught animals, although horses were sometimes used also. Some 60 per cent of arable land was taken up by paddy fields, and the Mulaos had long known the use of manure fertilizer. The Mulaos' well-developed irrigation system, unfortunately, was under the control of the rich landlords, who channeled most of the water off for themselves. The encroachment of insects and wild animals was a serious problem for the Mulao farmers. |

“In the past, each household was a basic production unit. The division of labor between men and women was not strict, but ploughing, carrying manure and threshing were usually men's jobs, while women did the rice transplanting, sowing and housework. Also well developed were sideline products, which included collecting medicinal herbs, raising livestock, blacksmithing, making pottery and weaving cloth. Prior to the founding of the People’s Republic of China, land in the Mulao areas was heavily concentrated in the hands of the rich landlords, especially the most fertile parts. The landlords demanded that their tenants pay rent in kind and provide unpaid labor service. They also exploited the poorer peasants by means of usury. |

Mulao Religion

The Mulao believe that souls are found in people, living things and natural phenomena. The also believe in the existence of a Heavenly Palace and a netherworld and in ghosts, spirits and deified real people. Religious beliefs incorporate animism, Buddhism and Taoism and religious duties are often carried by indigenous priests called mubao and female shaman. The community is also served by a variety of Taoist priests and other ritual specialists from nearby Han settlements. Ceremonies are held to honor ancestors and invoke their aid. These often feature lots of feasting, drinking, dancing and singing. The featured events are often courtship rituals and games between teenage boys and girls.

Norma Diamond wrote in the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “Religious beliefs are rooted in an older animism, merged with and overshadowed since the Song dynasty by Buddhism, Daoism, and ancestral worship and commemoration. There is continuing belief in the presence of a soul force (yin ) in a variety of natural phenomena as well as within persons, coexisting with additions from the Chinese pantheon. Indigenous priests (mubao ) study specialized texts during apprenticeship under established practitioners and are ceremonially ordained at the end of their training. Female shaman/diviners (baya ) receive their authority through spirit possession. [Source: Norma Diamond, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]

In addition to household altars for the ancestors, hearth god, and earth god, there are many small temples for “outside gods" of Chinese origin. Gods, spirits, ancestors, and ghosts are all thought to be actively concerned with human affairs, and their propitiation or consultation is necessary to assure well-being and prosperity and to deal with illness and other calamities. The spread of education and modern medical care in recent decades has led to some decline in religious activity. |~|

Mulao Religion and Festivals

The Mulao celebrate a lot of festivals. There are festivals in nearly every month of the year. They include the Spring Festival, Goddess of Mercy Festival, Flower Woman Festival, Ox Birth Festival, Yifan Festival and Slope Walking Festival. The most important celebration is the Yifan Festival. At this celebration, pigs and sheep are slaughtered, dramas and lion and dragon dances were performed, and the shamans chanted incantations. The lunar New Year's Day is the Mulao's New Year, and the eighth day of the fourth lunar month is "Ox Birthday," when the oxen were given a rest and fed glutinous rice, and wine and meat were offered to the Ox God. On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated. Unlike the Han and Zhuang Dragon Boat festivals, the Mulaos used to carry a paper boat into the fields and a shaman would chant spells to drive away insects and ensure a good harvest. The 15th day of the eighth lunar month is Youth Festival, when young people gathered to sing folk songs and make lovers' trysts.

Huapo Festival: On 3rd day of the third lunar month, Huapo (The Lady of the Flowers) is honored by the Mulao as the goddess that governs births. The Mulao think that human beings are the flowers of her garden. If a couple has children, they consider them as flowers that Huapo has given them. Before a temple dedicated to Huapo, the Mulao offer a pig to the goddess. Then, the head of each village tells Huapo the situation of every family, and asks her to protect all the children. On this day the couples that have had children during the past year, distribute red eggs to people. *\

Dragon Boats Festival: On fifth day of the fifth lunar month, many places have dragon boat races. The Mulao make paper ships that are placed in the fields. Shaman sing special words to expel insects, and ask the gods to help them to have a good harvest. *\

Insect Eating Festival: On the second day of the sixth lunar month, Mulao villagers meet before the Altar of Eating Insects. They sing and dance, and then they celebrate a banquet in which all the dishes are home-made insect dishes that each family has cooked. The festival commemorates a woman called Jia Nang, who, according to legend, wanted to visit her relatives but, having no money to buy a gift, cooked some insects that her son had caught. The people who ate them found the insects tasty, and they rushed to the fields to catch all the insects they could eat. That year the crop was very good. From then on, every year Mulao people go to the fields to catch insects for this festival. *\

San Yue San is three day festival celebrated on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month (usually late March, Early April) by the Li, Zhuang, Dong, Miao, Yao, She, Mulao and Geleo minorities in China's southern and central provinces. Sometimes called Venus Day, it is a time when boyfriends and girlfriends are chosen and villages celebrate the occasion with singing, dancing, archery, wrestling, playing on swings, tug of wars, pole climbing and other activities. All of the minorities perform the Money Bell and Double Daggers Dance. In this dance one man holds two daggers in his hand. Another man holds a money bell. The man with the daggers tries to stab the man with the money bell, who in turn tries to run away.

Ox's Birthday Festival

On the 8th day of the fourth lunar month, Mulao pray to the God of Oxen. Oxen are very important for the economic life of the Mulao. This day the oxen are thanked for their work during the year and are allowed to rest, and are fed glutinous rice. Every household washes their oxen, sweeps the cattle pen, and inserts the branches of the Chinese sweet gum in the gate to drive away mosquito and flies. Chicken and ducks are killed and wine is prepared for a memorial ceremony to the "cattle pen god." The ox is fed first-class fodder and cooked black polished glutinous rice. Well-off families feed the oxen soya bean, maize and egg distiller's grains. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China]

There is a beautiful and moving story about the ox’s birthday. According to legend, the Mulao ancestors ploughed and tilled their land with pickaxes and hoes, which was time-consuming and strenuous. There was a girl named Luo Ying, who was clever, industrious and kindhearted. One day she went hunting in the mountains, and saw a running and jumping wild ox as well as busy villagers streaming with sweat in the fields. She thought if only she could catch the ox to plow the land for the villagers! Then, she started to chase for the wild ox, whose hoof got caught in the crack of a large stone. It was badly hurt and cried out in pain. Unable to help the animal extricate itself, Luo Ying picked some grass to feed it and sang for it. Her songs were so beautiful, genuine and sincere that they not only moved the heart of the wild ox, they also touched the hard stone, which slowly its crack so that the foot of the ox could be pulled out. The ox then followed Luo Ying to some Mulao fields, and started to pull the plow and draw the rake for people. With the help of farm cattle, the labor of the Mulao became much less.

Grand Yi Fan Festival

The Yafan Festival is celebrated every three to five years at the beginning of the winter. Pigs and goats are sacrificed in temples. Old men tell ancient legends about the ancestors of the Mulao. Some operas are played. Lion dances and dragon dances are performed. Yufan means peace and prosperity. *\

During the Yufan (Yi Fan) holiday, Mulao people, pray to the god to drive away evil, safeguard their lives and collect good fortune, as well as to celebrate a good harvest. The festival is particularly big in Dongmen and Siba in Mulao Autonomous County in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. According to legend, in ancient time, Mulao villagers were often attacked by wild beasts. They were especially afraid of king of beasts— the supernatural lion, which was unusually violent, injuring people and animals and destroying the crops. One when the lion was unleashing an attack a girl riding a white horse appeared and shot the lion dead, saving tens of thousands of people. Also, she recaptured food taken by lion and taught the Mulao how to use ox and buffalo and raise taro and sweet potato. On top of that she taught Mulao young men kung fu and how to kill wild beasts. From then on, the Mulao enjoyed propitious fortune and good harvests. The Mulao now commemorate this girl with the Yifan holiday. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China]

In addition to get-togethers, sacrifices and offering to the gods, the Yufan festival features singers and musicians who beat drums and gongs. The longest and most plump corn ear is selected and tied with colored ribbon and hung on a wall. Models of buffalo and ox are carved from sweet potato. As part of the five-color rice feast, 12 kinds of agricultural products such as sesame, soya bean, aniseed, and ginger as well as 12 kinds of sacrificial offerings such as chicken, duck, fish, pig's heart, and pig's liver are laid out to show that domestic animals are thriving and and the farming, fishing and animal husbandry are producing abundant food. Singers dressed in red singing and dance around the table, persuading people to be kind and respect their parents, revere their teachers, live in harmony with their neighbors, conduct themselves honestly, conduct business honorably and manage their homes industriously and thriftily.

Mulao Wedding and Marriage Customs

Marriages were traditionally arranged when children were five or six and carried when they were 12 or 13 after a bride price was paid. There was a preference for marriages between boys and their mother’s brother’s daughter. In the wedding ceremony the couple drinks wine simultaneously from the same bowl. The bride remained with her family until her first child was born. Before that time couples are allowed to join other young people in singing, flirting and courting carried out at festivals. Divorce and remarriage are easy to arrange. The youngest son stayed with his parents after he was married to take care of them in their old age. Other sons left and established their own households. [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China”, edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company, 1994)]

According to the Chinese government: “Early marriage arranged by the parents was common before 1949. Brides did not live with their husbands until the first child was born. Intermarriage with the Hans and Zhuangs was permissible, but weddings were costly affairs which drained the wealth of a family.” [Source:]

On the first day of the Mulao wedding celebration, the bridegroom sends a group of friends and relatives, with singers to take the bride from her parents' home. The family of the bride receives them singing song called "Access Impediment", asking for the reasons why the groom’s entourage is visiting them. The bridegroom's family then must sing "Opening the door" in answer to their questions. Then they are received by the bride's family, where a banquet is celebrated. [Source: Ethnic China]

On the second day, after honoring her ancestors, the bride leaves with the bridegroom's entourage and her own cortege, to the bridegroom's house. When they arrive, they are stopped before entering the village or home, by the bridegroom's family singing "Access Impediment" songs which are answered with "Opening the door" songs by the bridegroom, who is waiting to receive the bride. After welcoming her he takes her to honor his ancestors.

After the couple spends the night together, the following day the bride returns to her parent's house. Little by little she becomes familiar with her husband's family. The first year she visits her husband only during the Spring Festival or in Harvest time. Later she goes to visit him more frequently. They live separated until she gets pregnant, when they start to live together. A can divorce on mutual agreement. Widows can marry six months after the husband's death if they give compensation to the family of their deceased husbands. In the old days, if a couple produced not male children, the husband could take concubines.

“Slope Walking Festival" of Love

the Mulao “Slope Walking Festival" (Climb Mountains Festival) is celebrated twice every year: first, around the time of the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and, secondly, around the time of the Mid Autumn Festival. Girls and boys dressed in their best clothes climb mountains to sing antiphonal songs. Boys sing love songs that express their feelings and try to arrange future dates with potential girlfriends. Girls are expected to say yes or express their rejection in songs. *\

No notices or announcements are made. It is said that lovers already known in their heart the date and place. It is said that the largest slope fields are in Huayuandong on the boundary of the three villages Dongmen, Qiaotou, and Xiaochang'an as well as near Xinyinpo of Siba Village. When the festival starts, young men and women dress in their holiday best. The young women and young men, in groups, gather on the slope fields. They convey their feelings through invitation songs and cross-question songs in order to promote their mutual understanding. If the two sides have a good impression of the other, they sing the song of "talking love" to pour out their adoration towards each other; if their love strengthens further, then they sing the song of "love pledging" to make sure the other side is committed. When the antiphonal singing finishes, the young sing the "song of feeling reluctant to part" and the "song of making appointment" to show their feelings and express their plans to meet each other again. They then present keepsakes to each other: men give women moon cakes called "the cake of the same age, "and women give them men "shoes of the same age," also called "mandarin duck's shoes." [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China]

When young men and women come again to the slope walking festival, the party that arrives earliest sings "the song of watching for" first, then "the song of meeting again," "the song of forming pairs" to sound out the other side's sincerity. The “song of praising flower" is sung to praise each other; "the song of missing" is sung to express the missing feeling; and "the song of living together," "the song of counting days," and "the song of parting" are sung to express eager wishes for marriage and a happy life. Even after all this, couples that have been courting a long time can not get married without the consent of both sets of parents. And even then a "matchmaker" is needed as a go-between to negotiate the marriage process.

Mulao Life and Society

Villages are usually organized by clan on the basis of a single common ancestor. All the villagers usually have the same last name. Only in larger villages and towns, could you find residents with different surnames and other ethic groups. Most Mulao live in valleys or low hills in simple one-story mud-wall houses that have a central room with a fire hut and sleeping rooms on each side. Animals are kept in separate shelters.

Glutinous rice, maize and potatoes are the primary staple food. Mulao also enjoy eating hot peppers and sour food.It is taboo to eat cats or snakes. Mulaos who bear the surnames Luo and Wu are forbidden to eat dog meat or the internal organs of animals. Wheat, peanuts, bean cotton, melons and a variety of vegetables are also grown. Water buffalo are the primary plowing and work animals. Horses are sometimes used. Men have traditionally done the heavy work while women did everything lese. Mulao are known as blacksmiths, potters and peddlers. Cinders and white clay are mixed to produce traditional earthenware pots.

Norma Diamond wrote in the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: ““Descent is patrilineal. The localized patrilineage was of key importance in controlling the sale of land and playing a role in arrangement of marriages and divorce. Ceremonies to commemorate ancestors and invoke their aid (Yifan) were held once every three or five years. They included feasting, drinking, dancing, and singing (particularly by the younger participants) and were attended by both sexes. The lineage head was responsible for overseeing the ceremonies at the ancestral hall, accounting for income from lineage landholdings, keeping a genealogy book, settling internal disputes, and enforcing lineage rules of behavior. The state now regulates marriage and divorce and is responsible for enforcing public order.[Source: Norma Diamond, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]

Mulao Houses and Ground Stoves

The houses of Mulao people are generally single-storey with a tile roof and mud-brick or brick walls. They have traditionally been made of cogongrass and bamboo as timber is very scarce. In some well-off villages, there are a few brick and tile multi-storied buildings. In a traditional house the principal room is divided into front and forward halls. There are two rooms on the left and right sides. Inside, on the left of the door, the ground is dug away to form a cooking pit. The livestock are kept away from the living quarters.

Digging the ground to make a stove is characteristic of the local-style Mulao houses. At Siba, Dongmen, Huangjin where Mulao people live in concentrated communities and coal is plentiful, these stoves, which are used for cooking and to keep warm, are common. Commonly called a "Ground Stove”, it is generally built on either side of the hall door and is simple to construct. To make one, Mulao people dig a hole in the ground in the kitchen or hall area. After the large hole is dug, a stove bottom is made with bricks and a grate is placed on top. The stove chamber is a third of a meter deep and 0.165 meters in diameter. A water jar is placed next to the stove with its mouth on the same level of the stove opening. In front of the stove is a coal ash hole, which is covered with a movable board.[Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China]

Each Mulao house has traditionally had a ground stove, which is used extensively throughout the year. People only need to fill it with coal in the morning and in evening and the fire kept burning throughout the day. Heat energy spread to the ground through earth, and the water in the jar can be kept at a certain temperature so that hot water is always available. The stove fire conducts heat to the ground constantly, increasing the indoor temperature, so people feel quite warm even in the cold winter; when the spring comes, the stove fire can keep the room dry, and effectively prevent the food from going bad; in summer, it can dry the grain drenched by the rainwater; in autumn, people can bake the food such as sweet potato and radish on the stove surface.

There are historical references to Mulao ground stoves. In the book of Tian Rucheng written during the reign of Jiajing in the Ming Dynasty, there is a record of Mulao people "digging the ground to make a stove and burn white charcoal." The white charcoal is a reference to the anthracite talked about today. It fully demonstrates the intelligence and wisdom of Mulao ancestors to utilize natural conditions.

Mulao Clothes, Sandals and Tongnian Love Shoes

The Mulaos used to be famous for their spinning, weaving and dyeing. Their traditional clothes are simple and mostly in deep blue in color. Traditionally, men wore jackets with large buttons down the front, long, baggy trousers and straw sandals. Women generally wear a blouse and long trousers, wearing their hair in buns wrapped with deep blue cloth. Young girls wear their hair in braids, which is coiled up onto their heads after marriage. Women's jewelry includes silver earrings, bracelets and finger rings.

The clothes worn and the cloth used by Mulao people has traditionally been spun, woven, dyed, and sewn by Mulao themselves. Their cloth dying method is particularly unique. First, they cut pieces of nankeen cloth into strips about 6.67 meters long and put them into the indigo dye vat. The pieces are repeatedly dried and dyed to make the blue and green colors richer. After that, the dyed cloth is placed in yam water to make the cloth mauve. Then rice gruel and ox glue are spread in a thick liquid onto the cloth surface. After drying, the glue solidifies. Finally, the cloth is placed on a round stone and beat with a mallet to make it soft. Cloth made in this way features wonderful colors and is attractive and durable. Mulao girls' marriage clothes, Tongnian shoes, the old man's shroud, as well as the gallus made by the grandparents to their grandsons, are all made of such kind of refined nankeen. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China ~]

Mulao women have traditionally made their own cotton shoes. They come in various styles and have names like "cloud head shoes," "cat head shoes," "single upper-front shoes," "double upper-front shoes," and Tongnian (of the same age) shoes. With modern life, development and improved living standard, these traditional self-made shoes are becoming more and more rare. The main kind that has endured are Tongnian shoes, which function as the keepsake of love of Mulao girls. To make them is complicated and requires meticulous skill. The bottom is made of calico, and the upper-front of indigo cloth. The first step is to cut dozens of layers of calico into the bottom shape, and then paste them together, fish-scale style with one layer on top of another. After that, the pieces are stitched together with white cotton thread. The sole requires the stitches to arranged into horizontal rows and vertical lines. The indigo cloth of the upper part of the show is then connected with the sole. The last step is placing the shoes into a steamer for more than 10 minutes and letting them dry. ~

Mulao girls begin to learn to make Tongnian shoes at a young age. When they are old enough to participate in "slope walking" festival they close themselves in their homes to make their shoes by themselves. One stitch after another, they sew their shoes, it is said, with pure love in their hearts. In "slope walking" festival, if a girl takes a fancy to a guy, she will express here love in songs they and will convey their feelings through their songs at first. After both sides find each other congenial, the girl will give her Tongnian shoes to the guy, to express her profound love to him. So, the making skills of Tongnian shoes feature one of the important requirements of the guys when they are choosing their future partners. ~

Mulao people like wearing straw sandals because they are soft and comfortable, with good ventilation. People can walk easily when putting on them. The straw sandals weaved by Mulao people vary in style. They include ox tendon straw sandals, nine layers of leather straw sandals, Chinese alpine rush straw sandals, rattan straw sandals, jute straw sandals, standing grain pole straw sandals, bamboo straw sandals, cotton thread straw sandals and wool straw sandals. ~

Among the numerous straw sandals, the bamboo straw sandals, cotton thread straw sandals, and wool straw sandals are the most characteristic ones still used. To make bamboo sandals: 1) place tender bamboo on a fire to make it soft; 2) then peel the skin with a knife, reel off raw threads, and dry them after a slight beating. 3) When weaving, people need one belt, one bended bow, and one little stool. Before the little stool there is a T-shaped little shelf, on which four sticks of iron are hung. The sandal maker first makes the toe, then the sandal’s body. Lastly, the two uppers are connected with the shoes body respectively going though the shoe’s hands. ~

Mulao Culture and Sport:"Phoenix Protecting Eggs"

Folk songs and "Caidiao" (a form of local drama) are very popular among the people. The songs are antiphonal and sung in the Han language.

"Phoenix protecting eggs" is one of Mulao people's traditional sports games. To play it: 1) draw a circle on the ground to be the "phoenix nest," and in the middle there place a few cobblestones regarded as the phoenix's eggs. 2) One person plays the part of the phoenix, with both his hands propped up to protect the eggs, the left foot placed on the ground in a prone position, and the right foot able to be freely moved. 3) Another five people play the part of "troops from the heaven". They try to take the eggs. If one of the troops is kicked by the right foot of the "phoenix" he is out. The troops win and defeat the phoenix if all the "phoenix's eggs" are taken away within five minutes. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China]

There is a legend about the origin of the "the phoenix protecting eggs" game. Long long ago, a beautiful phoenix flew to the Mulao mountainous area, and laid a phoenix egg, which brought hope and happiness to Mulao people. The people became better-off, and many skillful craftsmen appeared. The Gods disapproved and sent troops from the heaven to catch the phoenix, but each time they tried the phoenix escaped. The Gods were angry and ordered the troops to smash up the phoenix's nest and take away the phoenix's egg. The phoenix went all out to protect the egg, but at last got tired and was unfortunately shot to death. The mountain later turned into the phoenix's mountain. To commemorate the phoenix, Mulao people launch the game "the phoenix protecting eggs" among the teenagers, which has been passed on until today.

Mulao Coal Country

Luocheng lies at the center of the region inhabited by the Mulao. It is located in the Jiuwan mountain areas, which is known for its towering peaks and the continuous ridges. The area from Xiaolong of Yishan to Longlan of Luocheng is well-known for its deposits of nonferrous metals and coal. There are large reserves of various kinds of minerals. Many deposit are of high quality. Geological prospecting has uncovered more than 2000 promising mining places. The verified reserves of the high-quality anthracite is over 100 million tons. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences]

Luocheng's anthracite is commonly called "white smoke". It is hard and high in heat energy, making it ideal for heating boilers, making steel and providing raw materials for nitrogen and sulphur chemical fertilizer. In the old times, when the tools for digging coal and forging iron were quite primitive, much of the work was done by hand. The People's Republic of China placed great importance on the development and construction of the mining industry in the Mulao mountain areas. Today there are several large state-run collieries and collective coal yards. The development of the coal industry has brought higher incomes, development and jobs but has also brought pollution and exploitation by the Han Chinese.

Mulao people use their coal resources and metallurgy skill to make coal sand pots from coke, iron and white mud. The pots are used for cooking rice. Coal sand pots of various sizes and designs are also used for storing wine and making the tea. The pots can be tall or short, round or flat, small or big, with double bottoms or single bottoms.

Image Sources: Nolls China website, Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: 1) “Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China”, edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company; 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, ~; 3) Ethnic China *\; 4) \=/; 5), the Chinese government news site | New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated October 2022

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