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Zhuang Nationality Bronze Drum Custom

Zhuang Nationality Bronze Drum Custom

Some ethnic minorities from Guangxi traditionally play bronze drums during major festivals and ceremonial rituals, such as the March 3rd annual festival and New Year celebrations of the Zhuang people of Donglan and Tian’er. The Yao people of Du’an, Bama and Dahua play bronze drums at the Zhuzhu festival, the Nandan Yao people also play them during funerals and sacrificial rituals and the Zhongbao Miao nationality play bronze drums at New Year or any other significant occasion, happy or sad.

Around the 7th century B.C. the Pu people, living along the Pearl River valley, devised a percussion instrument, a bronze drum based on cooking utensils such as a cauldrons or bronze kettles. The drums were cast from clay and then molded in bronze, and there are many wonderful examples, large and small, in the museums of China. The bronze drum was subsequently introduced to Qiongdu and spread more widely in all directions: to Sichuan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Guangdong, northern Vietnam, Burma and Thailand. Everyday use has faded in many areas, with only archeological and historical examples remaining, but in some areas the bronze drum tradition survives, a vibrant “living fossil”. This is particularly so on the border of southern Guizhou and southeastern Guangxi, in the Hongshui River valley, where bronze drum playing remains popular among the Zhuang, Buyi, Dai, Tong and Shui ethnic groups (who use the Zhuang and Tong languages), the Miao and Yao ethnic groups (Miao and Yao languages) and Yi nationality who use the Zang and Mian languages.

The bronze drum was once a strong power symbol, and it remains a popular traditional item as well as bearing testament to the long history and culture of this area. When the people of the Hongshui River Valley play their bronze drums they also communicate their continuing culture and unique creative ability, which was developed in the course of adapting to their natural environment.