Sheepskin Drum Dance of Yi Ethnic Minority in Nanhua County, Chuxiong


In the Wujie Town(五街镇) of Nanhua County(南华县), Chuxiong city, a village of Yi ethnic minority with green mountains and clear water, shrouded by clouds and mist,  still completely retains a primitive and wild traditional dance of Yi people — sheepskin drum dance(彝族羊皮舞/羊皮鼓舞). Put on sheepskin, solemn and magnificent; When the string sounded, the feet itched. The tune is sung, you will feel good. This is the most vivid depiction of the Wujie sheepskin dance.

Sheepskin Drum Dance of Yi Ethnic Minority
Sheepskin Drum Dance of Yi Ethnic Minority


According to historical records, sheepskin is probably the earliest costume of Yi people. The Geographica in the Tang dynasty described the Yi people in the southwest at that time as “men and women wearing sheepskins”. Of course, the history of Yi people’s sheepskin coats should be date back to much earlier than Tang dynasty. It is not only the oldest and most practical, but also has a profound impact on the Yi people’s clothing.

When the sheepskin jacket meets the ancient song and dance of Yi minority, it will give rise to the original and wild song and dance with strong local characteristics — the sheepskin dance. It not only reflects the wisdom of the Yi ancestors in Wujie, but also reflects the love and pursuit of the happy life of them.

Dance Steps

According to the introduction, the Wujie Yi people belong to the Luo Luopo branch(罗罗颇支系), which is good at singing and dancing, their song and dance called “Tiao Ge“(跳歌) , also known as “Da Tiao“(打跳), Yi language called “Ge Xie“(葛歇). It is said that there are 72 kinds of dance steps, such as “four steps“(四步翻), “three steps and six“(三面六), “two steps  songs“(两翻歌), “three steps feet“(三跺脚), “Sheling melody“(舍岭调), etc. The dances are colorful and varied. The sheepskin dance is the unique traditional folk dance of the fifth street.

Whenever the village held a ceremonious sacrificial activity, they will perform the sheepskin drum dance. Dozens of men gathered around the empty space, their bare upper bodies covered with patterns, with brown leaves tied around their waists and leaves on their heads. With the accompaniment by the sheepskin drum, their bent and swing arms when dancing, jumping and enjoying, from time to time there was a ” Ohhuo Ohhou”shouts, the  dance is original and ancient, with a mysterious color.

Sheepskin Drum Dance of Yi in Nanhua County, Chuxiong
Sheepskin Drum Dance of Yi in Nanhua County, Chuxiong


Yi culture is an important part of Chinese culture with its distinctive ethnic characteristics. The “sheepskin dance” on the Wujie is undoubtedly a wonderful work of Yi culture. The sheepskin dance, regardless of age or gender, is an organized folk entertainment group, often consisting of a fixed number of people. Joy burst forth from the dance. The sheepskin dance is mainly popular in marriage, moving into new homes, celebrating festivals, happy funerals and other occasions, especially in the “Torch Festival” and “Spring Festival“.
Chinese Version:

Translated by Bella Ren/任新月