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A Brief Introduction to Yunnan Intangible Cultural heritage: Ashima Story


Ashima is spread in the Yi Autonomous County, in Shilin of Yunnan Province. It is a long narrative poem of Sani people who are a tributary of the Yi ethnic group. People narrate or sing the story of Ashima with oral poem language. The story of Ashima fighting against the power forces with great fortitude reveals human thoughts, namely, darkness will be replaced by light, evil will be replaced by virtue and oppression and bondage will be replaced by freedom. It reflects the ethnic characters and spirits which is that Sani people prefer to die rather than surrender.


The primary form of Ashima is created by Sani Yi language which is the fruit of collective wisdom and has a wide mass characteristic. It is mainly popular in the inhabitation area of Sani people in the Yi Autonomous County, Shilin of Yunnan Province, which can be divided into two almost same schools in the south and the north. Ashima is a five-letter song which applies many rhetorical devices such as foreshadowing, exaggeration, irony and techniques such as homophonic device, anadiplosis, zeugma and metaphor. As a narrative poem, it can be narrated and sang. There are many tunes such as "happy tune" (Xidiao), "old man tune" (Laoren Diao), "sad tune" (Beidiao), "Crying tune" (Kudiao), "scolding tune" (Madiao), etc. there are no fixed occasions to sing. You can sing and narrate in different occasions like wedding time, memorial ceremony, sacrificial rites time, working time and life.


Since 1950s, Ashima has been translated into English, French, Germany, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and Korean and spreaded overseas after the release of Chinese collection book in certain magazines. In Japan, is has been recomposed into radio play, opera and children drama. At home, it has been recomposed into film, Peking opera, Yunnan opera, opera, dance drama and Sani opera and performed all over the country. In 1982, the first Chinese colorful wide screen stereo music opera Ashima won the Best Dance Prize of the first international music in Santander, Spain.


With the social changes of life styles, educational systems and minority language usages, the inheritance of Ashima is in danger of lost.