Yi-style Wrestling in Yuanmou County, Chuxiong

Chinese Name:楚雄州元谋县彝族摔跤
English Name: Yi-style Wrestling in Yuanmou County, Chuxiong

Yi-style Wrestling was listed as Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritages in Yunnan.

Yi Wrestling, designated as a provincial-level intangible cultural heritage, is a traditional sports activity popular in Yuanmou County. It was officially recognized in September 2009 by the Yunnan Provincial People’s Government and listed in the second batch of provincial protection directories.

Introduction Yi Wrestling, known as “Ge” in the Yi language, represents the embodiment of strength and technique. It has been developed by the Yi people over an extended period of production and life. This traditional sports event is widely practiced, highly confrontational, and greatly favored by young men during festive competitions. It serves as a traditional activity for ideological exchange and emotional communication among young people from different villages. Yi Wrestling is a significant component of Yi ethnic traditional sports culture, primarily transmitted in the area of the Black Yi (Nuosu) people in the southern part of the Jinsha River in Yuanmou County.

Historical Origin The history of Yi Wrestling dates back a long time and originated as a means of resisting invasions and defending homelands. Wrestling became a form of martial arts and fitness exercise for the Yi people, characterized by unique forms. According to Yi folklore, the origin of the Torch Festival comes from a strongman in the sky who was defeated in a wrestling match on Earth. The enraged heavenly gods then sent locusts to devour crops, and people used fire to drive away the locusts. This narrative illustrates the ancient history of Yi-style wrestling. Historical records indicate that wrestling, known as “Jue Di” in ancient times, was documented in the Han Dynasty’s “Han Shu” (History of the Former Han Dynasty). The origin of this activity can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty, specifically the Tianbao era. The legends of Yi Wrestling feature heroes and legendary figures such as Alu Jure, Re Dinghaoxing, who were renowned wrestling masters. A Yi proverb states, “Guests are not entertained without wine, and joy is inseparable from wrestling,” emphasizing the importance of wrestling in Yi culture.

Basic Elements Yi Wrestling has no levels or specific costumes, and it exhibits great flexibility. Beyond being a physical contest, wrestling often serves as a means to resolve disputes between villages or settle territorial disputes. When conflicts arise, rather than resolving issues through rational discussions, both parties send wrestling representatives to compete. Wrestling matches are held at the borders between villages, and the outcome determines right from wrong. The winner is deemed correct, while the loser is considered incorrect. Wrestling becomes a way to settle disputes, and without formidable wrestling champions, reasoned arguments become irrelevant.

Key Characteristics Yi Wrestling is passed down through generations via oral and practical teachings, making it the most widespread and traditionally inherited mass sports activity among the Yi people (Nuosu). This traditional sports event embodies the Yi people’s spirit of love for their homeland, bravery in battle, and a cheerful and bold warrior ethos. It showcases the strength and wisdom of the Yi people through physical and intellectual competition.

Significance Yi Wrestling has been designated as a traditional sports event in the Chinese National Ethnic Games. Represented by the Nuosu people from Yuanmou’s Xiaoliangshan region, athletes have repeatedly won gold medals at national, provincial, and regional traditional ethnic sports competitions. This success has laid a solid foundation for promoting and preserving traditional ethnic competitive sports.