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at a Hani Funeral
Hani religion is best described as polytheism, animism combined with ancestor worship. Ancestors provide blessings in the forms of good health, abundant harvests, fat animals and fertility. People and rice have souls that must be kept happy. If they depart they can cause disease. The Hani also believe that disease is tied to certain spirits and can be controlled through sacrifices and magic oriented towards those spirits. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 ]

Village leaders are also regarded as the primary religious leaders. They oversee the annual rebuilding of sacred gates and swings (see Villages). Ritual specialist (prima) performs chants at various ceremonies. Offerings to ancestors are usually made by male family members (female family members have to undergo a special initiation to do so). Some Hani shaman slap their thighs and shack a rattle while in a trance. Shaman are believed to have been chosen the spirits for their job. Not every village has a shaman.

Early Buddhist and later Christian missionaries had little impact on the Hani. In recent decades, both Protestant and Catholic missionaries have been very active in Akha (Hani) villages outside of China. A large number of Akha have converted to Christianity. In many cases entire villages have converted and they have forsaken many of traditionally religious beliefs.

Hani tend to view certain events as unlucky: the arrival of a wild beast or a new family in the village, a dog climbing on the roof of a house, a fire in a neighboring village or tree falling down near the sacred gate. In many cases, they believe, these events signal the arrival of malevolent spirits.

Particularly, inauspicious is the birth of twins or a deformed child. Traditionally, when this happened the children were burned, the parents were run out of town and their house and all their possessions was set on fire. If the parents were wealthy they could buy their way back into the village by hosting a nine-days of feasting and sacrificial rites. Even then everyone in the village would ignore them for a year and they would be permanently excluded from religious rites.

Traditional Hani Religion

The Hani are polytheistic. They worship their ancestors and the forces of nature and fear ghosts. They believe that every object of nature has a spirit or soul and human souls don’t vanish after a person’s death. At one time the dead were cremated but now they are buried. When an old man dies, the Dance of the Old Men is performed. During this dance, oxen and goats are sacrificed in his honor and dancers sing and cry until the ceremony ends. [Source: Ethnic China]

In Xishuangbanna, ancestor worship and animism are important. According to Chinatravel.com: “The notion of spirits takes a crucial position in the Hani religion. They believe that one has 12 spirits that spread and circulate in the body and has different jobs and functions. Not a single spirit is allowed to leave the body, one may otherwise get sick and in bad luck. They therefore have a complete system convention to keep and call back one's lost spirits. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

left“The Hani's adoration for ghost and soul is derived from the notion that a man will die but his or her soul will not. After death one's ghost will depart from the body. The ghost of those die normally, guided by Beima, will return to one's ancestral homeland and serve as the guardian of the offspring. The ghosts of those died for not normal reasons or unmarried below the age of 35, however, are wild, homeless and evil, which can not return to the homeland but bat around and hurt the living. Only though some special religious ritual and the needs of such evil ghosts are met, the living people can stay sway from the ghost haunting. \=/

“The Hani believe that once a person is born, after three cryings one will have 12 spirits (Hani People call spirit Yuela) which are categorized as the first spirit, the second spirit and suchlike according to their declining significance and effect upon one's health and wellbeing. To enjoy lasting good health and luck, one should have all these 12 spirits circulate around oneself permanently. Once a spirits or more leave, one will be sick or trapped in ill luck. If the elementary spirit leaves, one will die. It is said that the elementary spirit will not go away at first; the spirits take turn to leave the human body starting from the 12th spirit, followed by the 11th, the 10th and so on and so forth. This is obviously a typical belief rooted in the Hani primitive religion.” \=/

Ancestor worshipping is another important Hani belief. Each Hani family has a very old pedigree that passes on from father down to sons. They believe that the spirits of the ancestors resides in the tombs, Momiluoke, namely the entry to the heaven or the place where the ancestral shrine is worshiped. Therefore sacrifices should be done frequently to win the favors and protection of the God and ancestors. \=/

Hani Spirits and Gods

The Hani believe believe in spirits of heaven and earth, protective spirits of the village and home, and “holy hills” and trees with guardian spirits. and obscure supernatural forces of the netherworld. They offer sacrifices to mountains, rivers, dragons and heaven, and, as often as every week, to their ancestors. Animals have spirits that are honored in hunting rites. In the spring, a village shaman traditionally led the people to a river to make sacrifices to the spirits, asking for bountiful harvests. Before the harvest, a village would engage in a ceremony to chase out ghosts. The Hani also offered annual sacrifices to the guardian spirits in trees in the "holy hills".[Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]

In Honghe people worship several spirits. The "Heavenly Spirit," a female deity called "Ao ma," is viewed as the creator of all things. Ao ma Hani believe created the sky and the earth and then gave the Hani their social code, She is rarely honored with formal rituals. The Rice Mother is more often the object of formal worship. A number of rice ritual are directed to her.

The natural objects and phenomena that Hani People revere including include mountains, water, trees, the sun, the moon, wind, thunder, hail and earthquakes. The most important Hani gods are: 1) God of the Sky, 2) Goddess of the Earth, 3) the Dragon Tree spirit, 4) God of the Village, 5) God of the Family, and 6) God of the Forest. All these gods and other ones too have the power of bring good or bad fortune so the Hani perform sacrifices and other rituals to appease them. Many Hani villagers regard the Dragon Tree spirit as the their most important god because it has the power to protect the human beings. Every year religious ceremonies and animal sacrifices are carried out to honor him. *\

Gods generally fall into three classifications: 1) God in the heaven such as Ouhu, Momi (the guardian of the human beings), Zuoma, Lama (God of the sun and moon), God of War and God of Conflicts etc. 2) Gods living on the earth and beneath the earth. Gods on the earth, for instance, are God for Safeguarding the Village, God of the Earth, God of Fire, and God of Nature and so on. Gods that reside beneath the earth are Beiao God, Zhaolong God for governing one's fortunes etc. 3) Ancestral Gods. Among all these Gods, Ouhu and Momi are the Creator and the Almighty in the world. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

Religion of the Hani Yeche

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Hani archery contest
The religion of the Hani Yeche—a small branch group of the Hani—is based on the cult to the ancestors and the deification of the forces of the nature. The fundamental concept is the existence of different souls or "yuela." The Hani Yeche believe that people have twelve souls. After death the souls of people become spirits. They also believe that gods are much more powerful than spirits of the dead. the gods. A person can fight the spirits, but before the gods he can only submit himself. [Source: Mao Youquan, Yeche ren of "linghun" guanniang yu yuanshi diaocha zongjiao (Investigation on the concept of the soul and the original religion of the Yeche) In Yunnan Minzu jigan; Cai Hua, Fertility The kinship of China Yicyu. Yunnan Peoples Press. 2009, Ethnic China *]

The main deities of the Hani Yeche are divided according to the places they inhabit. Their three main gods are: 1) Momi, or God of the Sky, thought to be their most important deity; 2) Mishu, or God of the Earth, their second most important deity; 3) Pumaepo, God of the Forests, important as their lives have traditionally been linked to the forest. Other important deities are: the God of the Water, God of the Fire and God of the Cliffs. There are other gods of nature, called "chang" that are worshipped by Yeche. They are possibly related with the structure of matriarchal clans of the old Yeche society. *\

Ancestors worship is important to the Hani Yeche. In every Yeche house, there are three baskets nailed to the back wall that faces the forest for the ancestors to live in if they return. It is believed that ancestors only return during important festivals: those of the third, fifth and seventh lunar months, when they like to visit their descendants. When the festival ends they go back to Da'e—the Land of the Ancestors. The Yeche also believe their multitude of ancestors won’t take care of them unless they follow tribe and clan rules. To keep their ancestors happy the Yeche go out of their way not to violate such laws and make sacrifices to them at their main festivals. At home they make a table with six bowls of rice with meat and some wine as offerings to their ancestors. Men worship the ancestors in the baskets hung in the wall, thinking that this will protect their souls. *\

Hani Creation Myth

In the beginning, according to the Hani creation myth, men and spirits lived together in a world created by A-poe-mi-yeh. They shared the same food and houses but often quarreled with each other and stole from one another because the spirits slept during the day and the men slept at night. Their constant bickering kept A-poe-mi-yeh from getting any rest so he created two worlds, the earth and the sky, and gave men the choice of which one they wanted. Because the choice was made during the day, men got to choose the earth with it trees, fruit and game. The spirits felt they had been robbed and plotted against men. Every wet season they descended to earth with rain (the only link between sky and the earth) and brought floods and disease.

The men called up to A-poe-mi-yeh for help and he told the men to put up gates with statues of mean-looking birds and viscous dogs outside their villages to keep the spirits out. The men obeyed and their problems stopped. But then after a time men began bothering A-poe-mi-yeh with stupid questions, one of which was why men can't live to be 100 years old. They kept asking and asking until finally A-poe-mi-yeh roared, "You keep bothering me. I've had enough! From now on the spirits will try to catch you whenever you are careless or negligent. Even if you manage to ward off their assaults, none of you will ever live one hundred years!" [Source: "Vanishing Tribes" by Alain Cheneviére, Doubleday & Co, Garden City, New York, 1987]

According to one myth the Hani descended from frog eyes.

Hani Shaman Priests

Akha (Hani) in the 1900s

Among the Hani a group of religious practitioners called zuima directed the religious activities of a village. Beth E. Notar wrote in the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “ A male from the oldest household in the village usually held the position, and it was passed down from father to son. Every year the zuima would perform planting and harvesting ceremonies, and in return the villagers would give him a day of free labor. There were male beima (piema) who performed incantations and exorcisms. Male and female nima were in charge of predictions and medicinal herbs. Both beima and nima were paid for their services with chicken, rice, wine, cloth, and money. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]

Rituals are regularly held to worship the Gods of Heaven, Earth, the Dragon Tree and their village, as well as their family patron gods. Believing they are protected by the God of the village gate, the Hanis in Xishuangbanna also hold ceremonies to pay respects to this deity. A shaman presides over the rites, at which sacrifices of cattle are offered. There are days devoted to animals, such as Sheep Day, on which sacrifices are made. On days when someone dies, a wild animal comes into the village, a dog climbs onto the roof of a house, or a fire breaks out, people would be called to stop working and hold ceremonies to avert misfortune. [Source: China.org]

Beima (a name related with the Yi bimo) were shaman-like priests who specializes in exorcizing spirits that make the people ill and opening the way to the land of the ancestors for the souls of the dead. Nima acted as fortune-tellers and making medicines. In other regions, different kinds of religious workers carry out different duties in different ways but they are generally somewhat similar to roles described above. *\

Beima come in various types, including: 1) Yangpi (for hosting such important ritual as funerals and suchlike); 2) Wengpi (for routine sacrifices or private rituals of less importance), and 3) Sepi (Manily mid aged women, responsible for medical problems or evocation etc.) according to their different social responsibilities, knowledge, capability and seniority. In Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Hani priests are called Ruma. They oversee and conduct most important ceremonies, and are considered to be middlemen between the world of the men and that of the gods. Ruma generally begin their study of the Hani religion when they are youths. Some of them become powerful men in Hani society. [Source: Chinatravel.com, *\

Hani Yeche Shaman-Priests

Most Yeche still follow their traditional religion and observe family and village ceremonies throughout the year. Their shaman-like ritual master is called a moqi. His duties are more or less the same that the beima in other Hani branches. There are two grades of moqi— niaqi and angqi. Only men can be moqi. According to Hani Yeche legends once there were two sisters who were moqi but they suffered inauspicious deaths. Most of moqi aspirants have to study under a practicing moqi before they can be considered themselves as moqi. Moqi don't have many ritual implements other than a "duck's tongue cap" with a white band around it, which they wear during ceremonies. They generally don't go into trances; they simply do the prescribed rituals and say the scriptures used in each ceremony. Their most common ceremony is to call some of the twelve souls each person have, because it is believed that illnesses are caused by one of the souls getting lost. Moqi also have an important role in the ancestral rites and funerals of every family. *\

Guqi are another kind of religious specialist. They usually do not perform traditional ceremonies but are considered intermediaries between the world of the human and that of the spirits, including their deities and the spirits of their ancestors. They carry out divination rituals and "spirit communication"in which people can address questions to dead family members and receive answers. Leshi—often a respected elder—are chosen every year to arrange public ceremonies in the village and make sure they are correctly performed. *\

One more interesting Yeche Hani religious specialist is the ei'du, or head of the dragon. Each village has a dragon tree where at certain times every year sacrifices are offered to the dragon spirit. This head of the dragon is chosen by the dragon spirit, who communicates his choice by divination to the inhabitants of the village. He is responsible for the good or bad luck that the village experiences and is required to observe many taboos, especially after the ceremonies to the dragon spirit. If a village has a string of bad luck, the head of the dragon is blamed and a new divination is held to choose a new one. *\

Hani Funerals

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The Hani bury their dead. Funeral ceremonies last for three days. The services are different for those with a male heir and those without one. Only those with a male heir become ancestors who receive rites after their deaths. Husbands and wives become ancestors together. In the ancient times cremation was practiced in the Hani community. By the middle of the Qing Dynasty cremation was gradually replaced by inhumation with wood coffin. Hani people normally select a piece of land exposed to the sun on the mountain as their cemetery. However the funeral conventions vary in different regions. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

Funerals differ from area to area. In Xishuangbanna, all work stops and every person attends the funeral. The head of the household of the deceased sacrifices a pig to a spirt of the deceased and everyone enjoys a feast. If the family of the deceased is poor, other village members contribute to the purchase of the pig. The dead are buried in the forest in a grave without a marker. In Honghe , the son-in-law of the deceased is required to offer a cattle for sacrifice and offerings of pigs, wine and chickens is made. Before the funeral a soul sending ritual is held at the site of the coffin in a room full of children. An appropriate burial site is found by rolling an egg until it breaks. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]

In Xishuangbanna, the dead are kept at home for three to five days, sometimes even for a whole week after death. In this period of time all recreational activities cease; Beimas sing and chant to see off the dead and a bull is sacrificed. On the day of the funeral, all the villagers participate and some possessions and utensils that the dead used when he or she was alive are buried too. \=/

On the southern bank of the Honghe River, the most ceremonious funeral is called Mocuocuo, which means that dance for the dead. In this sort of ritual, more than three bulls are sacrificed and the coffin stays at the house for three to five months. Three cannons are set off before breakfast and dinner every day. A special ritual called Moshang is held every 12 days. \=/

Hani Ceremonies

The Hani observe many spiritual ceremonies and festivals throughout the year. Religious activities are often linked to seasonal agriculture rhythms. The Hani calendar divides a year into three seasons — cold, warm and rainy seasons, each lasting for four months — or two seasons: wet and dry. The people’s season is the dry season, and the spirit season in the wet season. During the spirit season, the spirits are especially mischievous and various rites are undertaken to placate them. In the spring roads are repaired, sacrifices are made by rivers to ensure bountiful harvests and lots of noise is made to encourage malevolent spirits to leave.

The primary annual rituals are the rebuilding of the village gates and nine to 12 ancestor offerings and rice rituals. The annual ancestor offerings are related to the fertility of rice uses. They use a tall, four-posted village swing. Ceremonies are also held to mark births, weddings and funerals. There are also a variety of healing ceremonies that involve soul calling.

Before the harvest, villagers traditionally engaged in a ceremony to chase out ghosts. According to the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “ The first day, the villagers would sacrifice chickens and repair the roads around the village to facilitate the ghosts' exit. On the following morning at dawn, the whole village would make as much noise as possible in order to dispel the ghosts. Every village would then place a strip of bamboo outside the village gate, symbolizing the ghosts' departure. [Source: Beth E. Notar, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]

Hani Festivals

Two New Year Days (October New Year and June New Year) are celebrated in a year. Apart from the Spring Festival and Mid Autumn Day (the same as Han People), the Hani celebrate Nianshou Zhalete (in October), Chizhazha (also called May Festival), June Festival, Planting Rice Seedlings Festival (also called Yellow Rice Festival), and Tasting the Fresh Festival. Some Hani celebrate the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festivals. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

The main Hani festivals are "Zhalete"— the Hani New Year—in 10th month of the lunar calendar and the "Kuzhazha" (May Festival). Minor festivals with a special interest include the Change the Dragon Gate Festival, is celebrated before work in the fields starts; and the Eating Insects Festival, in which people go to the fields to catch insects that they bring to the village. Demonstrating the power of humans over insects, it is supposed to prevent the insects from damaging the crops. The Mother Festival is held in the second lunar month and celebrated over one day and one night. Young people pay their respects to all old people not just their mothers. It may be vestige of the time when Hani society had a stronger matriarchal character. Like their Han neighbors, the Hanis who live in the Honghe area celebrate the Spring, Dragon Boat and Moon festivals. [Source: Ethnic China *]

The Hani also celebrate the Torch Festival, which falls on the 24th of the sixth lunar month. This is a happy occasion especially for the young people. They sing, dance, play on swings and hold wrestling contests. At night, people in some places light pine torches while beating drums and gongs to expel evil spirits and disease. The Hani light torches in front of their houses and set large fires in their village squares. The festival honors a woman who leaped into a fire rather make love with a king. Before the village torch is lit people gather around it and drink rice wine. [Source: China.org |]

The Kuzhazha Festival in the fifth lunar month is for worship of ancestors. The most important ritual of this festival is the killing of a cow to present to the ancestors. In every home the people also worship their ancestors before their altars. This festival provides a good chance for young people of different villages to meet. At night, they sing and dance in groups until the dawn. *\

The Moqiu Festival arrives on the Pig Day or Dog Day of the fifth lunar calendar month and is also called May Year Day. According to legend once upon a time, there were two Hani young people; elder brother Ah Lang and younger sister Ah Ang. Ah Lang was famous for his great martial skills and the sister Ah Ang was pretty and clever. Both were kind and warm-hearted people, having good reputation among the villagers. In their time, the sun and the moon did not rise and set regularly: sometimes, for example, the sun might stay shining in the sky for several days. As a result the grain could not grow well on the earth. Ah Lang and Ah Ang decided to fly up to the heaven and persuaded the sun and the moon to do their job regularly. They got chestnut wood from the woods and made a Moqiu, a musical instrument. After they rode on it, the Moqiu started to revolve and rise up and carried to heaven, where they managed to persuade the sun and the moon to do their jobs. Ever since then the sun only comes out in the daytime while the moon only emerges in the dark evening. But afterwards Ah Lang and Ah Ang were not able to return to Earth. To memorize them and express their gratitude, villagers make and play the Moqiu on The Pig or Dog Day of the lunar May every year. In the evening chicken, ducks, beef, fish and sticky rice pie are offered to the inventor of Moqiu, Ah Lang and Ah Ang. [Source: Chinatravel.com ]

Hani New Year

The Hani calendar divides a year into three seasons, namely, cold, warm and rainy seasons, each lasting for four months. Two New Year Days (October New Year and June New Year) are celebrated in a year. October New Year falls on the first Dragon Day of 10th lunar month. The five to six days celebration is all about worshipping God and ancestors. A rooster is killed and cooked outside one's house. Each family member except girls who are about to get marry should eat one piece of the chicken. Afterwards three rice balls and some cooked meat are given to the eldest people in the clan. During the celebration a grand Jiexin Banquet (a banquet held in the centre of the street) which is an occasion for people to exhibit their cooking techniques and skills. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

June New Year is celebrated in the sixth lunar month. The precise date is determined by the the shaman-priest. Roosters and goats are sacrificed to the God of Grain and Heaven. When building the autumn house for the God of Heaven, a bull is killed and sacrificed in front of one's door. After the ceremony the beef is divided equally among the the attendants, which implies that people are sharing the gifts from the God. \=/

The Hani people celebrate their New Year in the tenth lunar month as their lunar calendar begins in that month. During the weeklong festivities, pigs are slaughtered and special glutinous rice balls are prepared. Relatives and friends visit each other, go-betweens are busy making matches, and married women go to see their parents. Sometimes shamans chose a dog or sheep day for the start of the festival. Hani thank their ancestors for the good harvest, and to ask for a prosperous new year. Every family kills a pig to offer their ancestors. Old people sing until night. Young people sing and dance the whole day. Many villages and communities have a big street banquet. Every family cooks some dishes that all the people of the village eat in the street. Every family take out a table and some chairs to the main street. Sometimes there are more than one hundred tables connected in the street. *\

Hani Spring Festival is held in the days before the New Year eve. Hani women prepare sticky rice pies, young men go out to the forest to collect firewood and a swing is built up in the center of the village. In the region of Simao, people also build up Moqiu which is like a seesaw. The first three days of the New Year celebration is all about playing swings and Moqiu on the village square. The Hani residents in Jinggu and Zhengyuan may dance and exchange folk songs in the evening; therefore it is a chance for the young to seek their lover. \=/

Hani New Year and Long Dragon Banquet

Hani New Year is the biggest festival for the Hani. It lasts six days, starting from the first dragon day of the 10th lunar month on the Hani calendar (the same as Han's lunar New Year's Day). On New Year's Day, every village kills one pig together. No matter how big the pig is, or how small, the pork must be shared equally among all the families, as well as its heart, liver, lung, intestines and stomach. In the afternoon, each family offers part of their share of pork and organs to the ancestors. The whole family stays together during the festival. They sometimes invite friends from other ethnic groups to join them. People drink, laugh and chat in cheerful voices all day long and sing ancient folk songs, which tell the history of the festival and their nationality and express the happiness of the harvest. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

In the latter part of the New Year celebration, every village sets up a long banquet in the middle of the village. All the villagers sit down and enjoy a feast at the table which symbolizes harmony, concord, auspiciousness and happiness. Since the shape of the banquet table resembles a long dragon, the feast is called "Long Dragon Banquet". Also, due to its place in the center of the street, it is also named the "Street Center Feast". In a small village, the feast can be over within one afternoon, but in a large one, the village is divided into three groups according to the family and clan groupings and the feast is held in three afternoons, each hosted by a different family group. ~

In the early morning of the "Long Dragon Banquet", every family in the hosting group helps carry square tables into the center of the street and sets them down one by one. Typically about a hundred tables are put together, forming a long dragon over 100 meters long. In the afternoon, with a call as a signal, all the hosting families vie with each other in placing out their best dishes and wine on the tables. The better the food and wine are, the more dignity the family will have. Therefore many families prepare special, delicious foods that they are reluctant to eat at normal times, such as sparrow, loach, carp, bamboo shoots, fungus, mushroom, and fat chicken. ~

There are as many as 20 dishes on each table, sending out fragrances that indicate the Hani's hard work and traditional cooking skills. There is a lively atmosphere. People bang gongs and drums and sit where they like, in accordance with ages, interests and hobbies. When everyone is seated, the gongs and drums are stopped, and the players, carrying gongs and drums, walk among the tables to accept dishes and wine offered by the others. After that, a couple of girls come forward and propose a toast to the grandmas. Women eat first, and then it is the men's turn. The feast lasts several hours, ideally overflowing with warm harmony, happiness, and endless cheerful laughter. When the dusk falls, large bonfires are lighted and young men and women dance, accompanied by gongs and drums, sanxians (a three string instrument) and bamboo flutes. As the night deepens, families gradually leave for home, while lovers slip off towards the palm woods and the bamboo forest. ~

Hani Agricultural Cycle Festivals

The Limazhu Festival is an important Hani festival that falls in the March every year when the camellia are blossoming. In the Hani language, Limazhu means the pretty and great scenery of spring. The Hani living on the Honghe River are very fond of cuckoos, calling them Haboahma. Each year when the cuckoo start singing, the Hani villagers prepare good wine and tasty food such as steamed sticky rice (the rice is cooked with a kind of arbor blossom.) and red chicken eggs (the egg shells are painted red) as tributes to cuckoo. According to legend a long time ago, the cuckoo was sent by the God from the heaven to deliver the message of spring to the human beings. Exhausted after flying a long distance, the bird was about to drop into the sea. Suddenly a dragon tail emerged from the sea surface and turned out to be a big tree. The cuckoo rested on the tree. After a good rest the cuckoo continued its long journey and eventually fulfilled its great mission. The message helped the villagers with their spring sowing and they harvested a lot that year. To give thanks to the cuckoo, the Limazhu Festival was created and celebrated every year. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

Miao Aina Festival takes place after planting of the rice seedlings in the early part of May among the Hani People the county of Lv. Aina means the holiday after planting seedling. When the day arrives, a pig and a goat are butchered and their meat are split among all the households of the village. After the day a water buffalo horn is blown to announce that the farmers and their cattle can rest for a while. According to a folk tale, many years ago, an animal herder wanted his two bulls to browse on the hillside. Accustomed to daily farm work on the rice paddy, the bulls refused to obey the boy's order and stood still on the rice field. The boy blew his buffalo horn and said to the bulls: "Oh, my dear friends, you have done a good job recently. Now the sowing has been done and it is time for you to have a rest." The bulls understood his words and left for the hillside happily. Ever since then as part of the celebration, local villagers serve their bulls the best green grass, tea, wine and a bowl of rice and meat as gratitude and recognition of their hard work. Ploughs, shovels and hoes are washed and laid in the yard. In the evening bonfires are lit and villagers dance and sing around the fire until midnight. \=/

The Fresh Rice Festival is celebrated on the 24th day of the sixth lunar month by the Kaduo, a branch of Hani living in Mojiang Hani Autonomous County. It celebrates the days when grains and other crops such as beans ripen. People are supposed to eat the newly ripe rice on the day which they believe can bring about new energy and strength. If the rice is not ready yet, the Kaduo grind the fresh rice and eats the flour with other food. \=/

The Catch the Grasshopper Festival, known as Ahselian in Hani, takes place on the first Rooster or Monkey Day after the 24th of the sixth lunar month. Villagers go out to the rice paddy to catch grasshoppers. People form groups based on family; when each group has caught one bamboo pipe of insects (basically one kilo each) they stop and tear the grasshoppers into five parts: the head, legs, body, rear end and wings. Then they lay the five piles of grasshoppers' body parts besides the rice paddy or drains as a warning for other insects. Half an hour later, the grasshoppers are brought back home for food. The stir-fired grasshoppers are said to be extremely delicious. When leaving the rice paddy for home, people yell "Hey! Grasshopper! We won't catch you in three days any more and please don't eat our rice in three months." \=/

Amatu Festival of the Hani

The Amatu Festival is celebrated in the second lunar month. For three to five days people stop all their work and productive activities to celebrate the festival, which honors Amatu, a legendary heroine who became protector goddesses of village. These days, male representatives of every family make sacrifices before the sacred tree. Young people dance, sing and play drums and cymbals. The purpose of the festival is request protection for the village, its people, its crops cultivations and its livestock. In recent years in some places the festival has been altered to make more interesting to tourists attraction, namely replacing female deity with a dragon and excluding women from some of the activities. [Source: Ethnic China *]

The Amatu Festival is one of the most important events for the Hani. Although there are many legends about the origin of this festival, the most popular is about a monster that terrified Hani and fed of villagers. In an effort to appease the monster the villagers made a deal with him: the monster would not them if the villagers sacrificed two young boys to him every year. One year a the two sons of woman named Amatu were selected to be sacrifices. Not wanting to lose her children she came up with an alternative. The night before the sacrifice she sang song about cow meat tasting much better than people meat. The monster believed her and didn’t eat her sons. *\

Then, Amatu reached a new agreement. In exchange for giving up human meat, the village would offer the monster two beautiful maidens as wives every year. The monster accepted. Amatu then dressed up her two sons like girls, hiding sharpened knives among their clothes. Following a plan hatched by Amatu, the sons waited until the monster, drunk after his wedding celebration, fell sleep. Then they killed him with their knives. After that Hani people have revere Amatu as the protector deity of their villages. *\

Old Man Festival and Offering a Sacrifice to One's Mother

The Old Man Festival is the 15th of each winter month according to the lunar calendar by the Hani in the Kaduo mountainous region of the Xinping County. In the early morning, young men go out to the mountain to dig out pine trees while women prepare a banquet at home. In the late afternoon when the sun is setting all the old men assemble at the Shenzhi (the place for this particular celebration) where many green and lush pine trees have already been planted. Music is played and rice wine, tea, chicken eggs, sticky rice and other tasty food are served to the old men under the pine trees. After the grand banquet, lads take out their three string instrument and young girl sing songs and old men do a dance called the Yangmentao. At the end of the event the host invites old mem to take turns talking about how their kids have treated them in the past year. Good and filial children praised while bad ones are scolded. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

Offering Sacrifice to One's Mother is an old tradition practiced by the Hani communities in Kaduo of Xinping County in a place called the Dongba on the first Day of Bull in second lunar month. All farm work ceases. In the early morning, young lads shoot birds in the forest and young women catch fish in the river. Those staying at home butcher pig and goat. At noon rice and wine are collected from the villagers (the amount is dependant upon the number of sons that a family has; one son should contribute one kilo wine and one kilo rice), together with the fish and birds caught in the morning, a lush banquet is prepared. In the evening, villagers gather in front of the tree of sacrifice to the mother. The eldest person in the village announces the opening of the ceremony. People sing the Missing the Mother song together and afterwards the banquet starts. \=/

The Offering Sacrifice to One's Mother ritual is a kind of moral education for the young and a reminder to love one’s mother. According to an folk tale, many years ago in Kaduo Village in the Ailao Mountain, a widow lived with her only son. Loving her son dearly, the widow did whatever she could to give him a better life. Year after year the son gradually became a strong young man. He worked on the hillside and his mother served him food and drink every day. But the son was not a good man. He always cursed or even beat his mother whenever the food was not good enough or came late. One morning the son saw a very touching scene: a sparrow feeding her naked chicks. Deeply moved and regretful, the son made up his mind to treat his mother well and did so. A few minutes later the mother came with a basket of food, he stopped his work and went for his mother. His unusual behavior scared the poor mother. She thought he would beat her and ran away, with her son chasing behind, and jumped into the river. After the son reached the river he tried to rescue his mother. However he found nothing but a tree trunk. He was extremely sad and brought the trunk back home. He carved his mother out of the wood, placed it in front of his door and made sacrifices his mother every day. It is said that the mother’s death took place on the first Bull Day of the second lunar month. \=/

Hani New Grain Dinner

The Hanis around the Honghe River have a custom of having "a new grain dinner" on the first dragon day of the seventh lunar month. On that day, according to the old custom, every family is expected to pull up a small bundle of grain with the root and the spike from their own rice field. After they pull up the should leave behind an odd numbers of holes and not greet anyone on the way back to their home, no matter who it is, otherwise bad things might happen. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China ~]

In the afternoon, villagers rub the rice into grains and parch them in the cauldron until they become puffed rice. Before eating the puffed rice, people should first give some to a dog, who should be thanked because, according to the ancient legend, the rice seeds of the Hanis were saved from a big flood by a dog. After eating the rice, they eat melons, beans and vegetables that have been grown that year. People have a bowl of tender bamboo shoots, symbolizing that the harvest of the next year will rise as steadily as fresh bamboo. They also eat a castrated fat rooster, in hope of having an abundant and happy life the next year. ~

Image Sources: Nolls China website, Joho Maps. YouTube

Text Sources: 1) "Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China", edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K.Hall & Company, 1994); 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, kepu.net.cn ~; 3) *\; 4) Chinatravel.com \=/; 5) China.org, the Chinese government news site china.org | New York Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated September 2022

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