Achang Ethnic Minority: Playing Green Dragon and White Elephant

Achangs generally believe in Hinayana, a branch of Buddhism. They have a lot of festivals, most of which are related with Buddhism, like: Water-splashing Festival, New Year (or Spring Festival), the Jinwa (Buddha going into a temple), the Chuwa (Budda coming out of the temple), Torch Festival, Change Yellow Clothes, Watering Flowers Festival, Huijie Festival (Fair Street Festival), etc.

Achang Women Worshipping BuddhaThe Huijie Festival is a traditional festival in the Husa and Lasa areas. In the past, it was usually held in mid September (according to the Chinese Lunar calendar) and lasted about fifteen days. Now, the time has been changed to the three days around the National Day. Playing green dragon and white elephant is the most exciting and important entertainment in that period.

Green dragon and white elephant are symbols of good luck and happiness to Achangs. A green dragon and a white elephant are made before the Huijie Festival. On the break of the day, young men take Husa long swords on back and beat their elephant-feet drums, while young girls wear beautiful and charming traditional clothes. Then, the green dragon and the white elephant will appear, crowded by people and accompanied with drumbeats and other music instruments. When they enter the square for celebration, the elder who preside over the festival will declare the beginning of Huijie Festival, and of a sudden all the drums, Mang Luos (gongs), and Bos (percussion instruments) begin to play. In the joyous music, the dragon and the white elephant start dancing-the green dragon shakes its head or tail, or makes cheerful laughing with its mouth open; the white elephant swings its long snout, or walks forward or backward, or does slipping walk, or kneels down, or stands on its hind legs or forelimbs. Their clumsiness and loveliness would arouse roars of happy guffaws among the audience. And then, young men and girls will also start dancing around the green dragon and the white elephant. Their bodies move like waves when they are jumping and moving together. At this time, all the forms of celebration have changed the festival square into an ocean of mirth and hilarity

But you may wonder: how can the green dragon and white elephant make various movements? Actually, they are made of wood for frame and paper for the outside, and cloth for the dragon head and tail and elephant snout. When playing, there are men in the bodies of the dragon and the elephant. Some men are responsible for carrying the dragon or the elephant, and some for moving head and tail of the dragon and the elephant snout. Thus, the green dragon can raise its head, open or close its mouth, and swing its tail, and the white elephant can swing its snout.