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Hainan’s nine national intangible cultural heritages

Updated: 2019-01-30

1. Yazhou Folk Song

Yazhou folk song, mainly passed down by singing of handwritten lyrics, is one of the ancient styles of Hainan folk song, and attracts a wide audience in Sanya, Huangliu Village of Ledong County and territory affiliated to ancient Yazhou.

Yazhou folk song owes its popularity to its euphonious melodies such as work songs, vendor's songs, and ballads, and its use of major and minor keys. The popularity can also be attributed to its rhythmic lyrics based on long narrative poems. 

The content of Yazhou folk songs are normally classified into four types, namely, long narrative songs, long songs about social life, impromptu short songs and antiphons. 

2. The Tone of Danzhou

Stemming from local folk songs, the tone of Danzhou is a unique folk art with a long history traceable back to the Western Han Dynasty. The tone of Danzhou is a spontaneous antiphonal singing in which local young men and women express their affection for one another. Unlike traditional folk songs, the tone of Danzhou is a marvelous combination of antiphonal singing and joyful dancing.

3. Dachai Dance (Bamboo Dance) of the Li Ethnic Group

The Dachai dance (Bamboo dance) is a typical folk dance of the Li ethnic group derived from their ancient funeral service. 

The dance has a complete set of props, which consists of two long wooden sticks as a base on which multiple wooden sticks are piled. The wooden sticks have been replaced by bamboo poles nowadays, which is why the Dachai dance is also known as the bamboo pole dance. In addition, the dance has unique steps. To a rhythmic accompaniment dancers jump and hop back and forth between the poles while doing mimicry. The Dachai dance is a highly entertaining activity that has won acclaim and applause from home and abroad. 

4. Lingao Puppet Show

The Lingao puppet show is an ancient folk art, the history of which can be traced back to the Southern Song Period. Instead of the puppeteers manipulating the puppets behind the curtain, the puppeteers and the puppets both appear on stage. That is the most distinctive feature of the Lingao puppet show. Because the puppeteers and puppets play the same characters the performances have a true liveliness. As they are performed in the local Lingao dialect, they are easily understood and enjoyed by their audiences.

5. Pottery Making by the Clay-strip Forming Method of the Li Ethnic Group

Hainan Island enjoys a long history of pottery making, which can be seen not only from the potsherds discovered at Li people's prehistoric settlement sites but also in historical documents.

The Li ethnic group uses many tools to make pottery, such as wooden pestles, wooden mortars, wooden scrapers, clam shells, drilling bamboo sticks and bamboo mats. The clay cannot become fine pieces of art such as kettles, bowls, jars, wine distillers and rice cookers unless it has been through a twelve-step pottery making process. 

Primordial as it may seem compared to today's pottery making methods, the clay-strip forming method is still well preserved by villagers of Changjiang Li Autonomous County. 

6. Traditional Li textile techniques: spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidering

The traditional Li textile techniques are a combination of spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidering. The spinning techniques can be further divided into cotton spinning and hemp spinning. The cotton spinning of the Li ethnic group once led the development of ancient China's cotton industry, exemplified by the traditional cloths of the Li ethnic group. In addition, Li brocade embroidery has more than 160 patterns.

7. The Making of Bark Cloth of the Li Ethnic Group

Bark cloth is generally considered one of the first fabrics made by mankind. The first use of bark cloth in Hainan Province was believed to be 4,000 years ago when the Li ethnic group made the cloth out of the bark of certain trees. Stone hammers, the hammering tool once used in making bark cloth, have been exhibited by local museums. Some locals are still capable today of identifying the trees that are good for making bark cloth and some families actually still make bark cloth and use it for blankets and hats. Bark cloth, as the transition from non-woven fabrics to the woven fabrics of today, has played an irreplaceable role in the cultural history of mankind.

8. Drilling Wood for Fire of the Li Ethnic Group

The Li ethnic group's custom of drilling wood for fire is one of the ancient skills used to make a fire but it is also a skill with strong ethnic characteristics. The fire making tool of the Li ethnic group consists of two parts, a hearth board and a spindle. The fire can only be made by a person uses those tools at the same time and striking the right balance between them. Some of the elders in Baoting Li and the Miao Autonomous Prefecture and Changjiang Li Autonomous County are still masters of this skill.

9. Lunar March 3rd Festival of the Li Ethnic Group

The Lunar March 3rd Festival is a traditional festival for the Li people in Hainan Province. It commemorates their forefathers and promises love and happiness. They had begun to celebrate it as early as the Song Dynasty. 

During the festival, the Li people not only put on beautiful traditional cloths but share local delicacies such as Shanlan rice wine and bamboo rice. People celebrate the festival either by paying respects to their forefathers or by singing, dancing and playing instruments. 

Nowadays, there are more and more ways for Li people to celebrate this traditional festival, but antiphonal singing, folk sport games, and the songs and dances of the Li ethnic group, as well as shows about their wedding customs, remain the preferred celebrations.