Bronze Drum Dance of Zhuang and Yi Ethnic Minorities in Wenshan

Brief Introduction

Bronze Drum Dance of Zhuang Ethnic Minority and Yi Ethnic Minority in Wenshan (文山壮族彝族铜鼓舞) is very popular and famous. The tradition is maintained in the Zhuang and Yi villages of Guangnan, Malipo, Funing, Xichou, Maguan and Qiubei counties. The most representative bronze drum dance is that of the Zhuang and Yi ethnic groups of Guangnan County, Xinzhai Village in Malipo County and several Bailuo subsidiaries of Muyang village in Funing County.

Performance Aims

Traditional worship of ancestors and nature among the Wenshan, Zhuang and Yi people. The Yi saw the bronze drum as the wisest of all creatures, believing that it would carry their prayers and petitions to gods and ancestors via the drumming and dancing. Zhuang people, however, believed that beating the bronze drum and dancing would drive away evil and bring good fortune.

Performance Forms

Dancers move counter-clockwise in a circle, keeping time with the drums.  The moves reflect daily farming and other activities of the Zhuang and Yi ethnic groups. The Zhuang people from Magui village in Naxi town own 12 sets of specific dance movements, reflecting the monthly production cycle. The bronze drum dances from Malipo and Funing villages are mainly used for folk activities such as praying for rain and good harvest or for funerals.

The Zhuang and Yi ethnic minority dance

The bronze drum dances of the Zhuang and Yi people remain popular. Many of the movements are simple and ancient. The Zhuang dances involve one person beating the drum while another uses a wooden box to improve resonance, which is unique to this musical performance. The Yi use a special technique in which two drums perform twelve combination tones. The male drum is said to symbolize the sun and the female drum the moon. The twelve tones stand for twelve months, thus the Yi bronze drum dances also reflects the 12-month production cycle, as well as honoring ancestors. Traditional culture, along with historical connotations such as national existence and development, gives a specific characteristic to these ancient dances.


The bronze drum dances of the Zhuang and Yi minorities have been listed as the intangible cultural heritage of Yunnan.

Chinese Version:                                                                                              Translated by Lynette Fu/付云锐

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