Tongle Village of Yezhi Town in Weixi County, Diqing

Chinese Name:迪庆藏族自治州维西县叶枝镇同乐村
English Name: Tongle Village of Yezhi Town in Weixi County, Diqing

Tongle, a village in Weixi, a Lisu autonomous county in Deqen, a Tibetan autonomous prefecture in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province, is a traditional village inhabited by people of the Lisu ethnic group. Tongle is one of the oldest Lisu villages in Weixi. It has a history of nearly 300 years.

Tongle, situated on the side of a mountain, is surrounded by mountains. The Nujiang, Lancang and Jinsha (the upper reaches of the Yangtze River) rivers (three great rivers in Asia) run parallel to one another through the mountains. Tongle is a good place to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the lofty mountains and the fast-flowing rivers.

Tongle is a must-see for tourists, photographers and architecture aficionados, especially given the hundreds of well-preserved traditional dwellings inhabited by the Lisu people. The Lisus commonly refer to the traditional style of dwelling in their village as the “muleng house.” Such houses are popular in the western region of Yunnan Province.

Muleng houses are made from logs and wood planks, without using nails. Most of the families live in two-story houses. The first floor is commonly used to keep domestic animals while the second floor is used as the living quarters. The houses are surrounded by wooden fences. Corn is the main crop, and the locals usually dry their corn on their fences. They believe that much corn on the fence proves their family has had a good harvest.

Nearly all of the Lisus sing and dance well. Achimugua, which originated in Tongle, is a traditional folk dance of the Lisu ethnic group. “Achi” means “goat,” and “mugua” means song or melody. So, achimugua is also called the “goat dance.” Without any instrumental accompaniment (only flute occasionally), achimugua combines dancing with the singing of folk songs. The locals perform achimugua during weddings,funerals, worship ceremonies, traditional festivals and other important occasions. They also perform the dance when they have guests, as it is one of the grandest ceremonies that they hold for guests.

There is no written record of the time when achimugua came into being. The stories about the dance are mostly inherited from the elder generations. As the ancestors of the locals lived in the mountains, as hunters and nomads, they were isolated from the outside world. They survived by planting crops and keeping goats. They established close relationships with the goats, and they were familiar with the sounds, movements and habits of the goats. They began to imitate the goats’ bleating and body movements, to better communicate with the goats. The locals gradually created a kind of song and dance. It was the origin of achimugua. 

The dancers are in two teams, a female team and a male team. Each team has a lead person. The lead begins to sing a tune without any lyrics, and then the other members sing and dance together. The two teams take turns performing.

Now, there are more than 10 variations of achimugua. However, the spirit of the traditional performance remains, including imitation of the bleating and movements of a goat, and the expressing of the charms of the mountain, rivers, meadow and other elements of nature.
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