Fenlong Festival of Maonan
Updated: 2009-01-21 11:14

The Maonans mostly reside in the mountainous regions in the south of China. They have their own language, but do not have letters. Now Chinese is used as the language of communication. Most of them believe in Taoism and worship the multi-deities.

The festivals of the Maonans include the Temple Festival in May of the lunar calendar, the Ancestor Worship Festival on the Tomb-Sweeping Day and the Bird Freeing Activity on the Lantern Festival.

There are two obvious features of Maonan festivals, that is, they worship their ancestors, and hold the antiphonal singing party.

Fenlong Festival

The Maonans in the Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County in Guangxi hold a traditional festival around the Summer Solstice of each year -- the Fenlong Festival, also called as the Temple Festival. It takes place in May of the lunar calendar each year. It is said that the dragon in the Heaven will supply water during this season to facilitate farmers' plowing so as to have a bumper harvest. The name came from the day when the dragon supplied water.

During the festival, no matter men or women, young or old, they dress themselves up. The young daughter-in-laws will go back to their parents' home for family reunion. They collect flowers and maple leaves to cook five-color sticky rice and worship the Supernatural Farmer in the field with sticky rice and meat hoping for a good weather and a bumper harvest.

People also wrap the five-color rice and meat with a sort of large fan-shaped leave and visit friends and relatives for the festal celebration.

The Fenlong Festival is also the day where young men and girls gather and date. The contents of the entertainment include antiphonal singing, etc. But nowadays, besides the worship to the ancestors and antiphonal singing, they also organize the contests of entertainments and sports.

Bird Freeing Festival

Among the festal customs of the Maonans, the most characteristic and interesting is the Bird Freeing Festival on the 15th of the first month of the lunar year.

Legend has it that in the past, there was once an old rabbi in the Maonan village, who had only a pretty girl. She was good at making various birds with bamboo strips and calamus leaves, and people named her Bird Girl. She fell in love with a young man and was ready for marriage on the 1st day of the New Year. The rabbi wanted to test the skills of the future son-in-law. He asked the young man to go to the mountain and complete the seeding in the entire field before the dust. As instructed by the rabbi, he should have planted the seeds of millet, but in his haste, he mistakenly planted the seeds of sticky rice. The old rabbi ordered him to collect all the seeds he had planted. This posed a dilemma for the boy. Aware of the trouble, the girl asked her fiancé to go home and get the bamboo basket, which they two made before. The girl blew to various birds and murmured to the young man. He took the birds to the mountain, which helped him collect all seeds of sticky rice very soon. Since then, the Bird Freeing became a festal custom.

Near the advent of the Spring Festival, every family has collected calamus leaves in advance. On the eve, people make various birds with calamus leaves. In the hollow paunch of the various birds, fresh sticky rice, bean rice and sesames are to be filled and cooked or steamed. Afterward, people tie them on the long sugar cane, and hang it in front of the joss sticks in the front hall. The birds include partridge, pheasant, swallow, cormorant and thrush, etc. On this very day, one bird will be given to each of the children to satisfy their craving for delicious food. The married daughter-in-laws, who have given birth to a child, have to go back home to get the birds to wish the children will grow like birds. In front of the joss sticks, the offering, red rice and fruits are offered to pray for the happiness and abundance in grains.

On the 15th of the first lunar month, people take down the birds and cook them, which will be taken as dinner on the evening. This means to free the birds. While freeing the birds, they won't forget to review the legend.

Squash Festival

The Squash Festival of the Maonans takes place on September 9 of the lunar calendar, i.e. the very day of the Double Ninth Festival. On the festival day, every family will fill the house floor with squashes in various shapes, which will be selected one by one. The young people drop around and choose the King-Sized Squash through appraisal. The assessment concerns both the appearance and seeds. After people reach an agreement on the comment, a strong man will cut the squash and take out the flesh and preserve the seeds for the planting of the next year. Afterward, people cut it into pieces, put them into a pot and stew till they are well cooked. The first bowl of squash is to set in front of the worship hall to sacrifice the Squash King, then, people dine together.

Dragon Boat Festival

The Maonans also celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, but in a different way from the Hans. It is called Drug Festival by people. While celebrating the Drug Festival, their custom is to collect argy wormwood, calamus, ginger, vine and decoct them to extract medicinal ingredients or pestle the drug and use them as fitting of the sticky rice cakes, which has the effect of detoxification.

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