Daogan Festival of Lisu Ethnic Minority

Brief Introduction

Daogan Festival (刀杆节) is a traditional festival of Lisu ethnic groups living in Lushui County(泸水县), Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture(怒江傈僳族自治州).Due to the death of the old artists, they were once lost in Nujiang Prefecture and recovered in recent years. They are mainly distributed in Luzhang Village(鲁掌镇), Luzu Village(鲁祖村) and Loma Village(洛玛村) of Lushui County(泸水县).


In the Ming Dynasty, when the people who is not in the same clan of feudal China invaded the frontier in Yunnan, The King dispatched Wang Ji(王骥), the Ministry of War in feudal China, to take troops to resist the enemy. Wang Ji fought in unity with the local Lisu ethnic groups and soon expelled the invaders. Later, Wang Ji was murdered by a traitor. In order to commemorate Wang Ji’s great achievements and pray sacrifices to the souls of the brave soldiers who died bravely to defend the frontier, Lisu ethnic groups held the activities of Going up to Daoshan and Going down to Sea of  Fire(上刀山,下火海), and designated the fifteenth day of the first lunar month of each year as Daogan Festival.


Going up to Daoshan and Going down to the Sea of Fire is the main custom performance activity of Daogan Festival, which reproduces the life experience of people who live in mountain crossing mountains, as well as the arduous spirit and skills of climbing mountain.


Use pine tree as tool pole, iron knife as tool ladder, wrinkle paper as flower, and bamboo as flower stick.When Going up to Daoshan and Going down to the sea of fire, we play with cowhide drums(鼓), gongs(锣), hairpins(钗), suonas(唢呐) and other musical instruments under the knife pole. There are strict procedures and sacrificial ceremonies from flower-lighting(点花), knife-pointing(点刀), knife-playing(耍刀), knife-piercing(扎刀), flower-greeting(迎花), altar-setting(设坛), knife pole(祭刀杆), vertical pole(竖杆), dragon-sacrificing(祭龙), knife-mounting(上刀) and knife-disassembling(拆刀) to the sea of fire. Knife pole is commonly known as gold pillar, silver pillar or male pillar, mother pillar, respectively, representing the deceased and the living. Thirty-six long sharp knives, representing 365 days a year, are tied on both sides of the knife ladder with paper flowers made of five-color paper.

After the knife pole is tied up, Xiangtong /香通(sorcerer) recites words in his mouth and performs knife dance in drum music. After the knife dance, in the sound of Suona and gongs and drums, the knife-bearer grasps the knife edge with both hands, treads barefoot on the knife edge and climbs up. When he reaches the top through three scissors, the knife-bearer opens the sky lock(天锁), takes out the grains and flowers and spreads them to the boiling crowd, and puts the red silk ribbon ,which is on the colored door, on his body, he sang the old prayer song, then,he came down from the knife pole in turn. After that, he stepped barefoot into the burning charcoal fire, licked the burning plough with the tip of his tongue, and bit the burning iron chain with his teeth, which showed the Lisu  ethnic national spirit and superb performance skills.

Chinese Version: http://www.ynich.cn/view-ml-11110-1403.html                                                                                          Translated by Olive Zhang/张银芳

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