Hainan, located on the southernmost tip of China, is China’s second largest island after Taiwan. There are 37 ethnic groups on Hainan Island, among which the major ethnic minorities are Li, Miao and Hui. Hainan is famous in China as the only region inhabited by Li people. The special geographical location and the ethnic minorities of Hainan have given birth to its colorful folk arts, such as Hainan Opera (Qiong Opera), Lin’gao Man-and-Puppet Show, Li Brocade and Firewood Gathering Dance of Li Ethnic Minority (also called Bamboo Pole Dance), and so on.
Hainan Opera (Qiong Opera)
Every region of China has its own distinct form of opera. Hainan Opera, also called Qiong Opera, is one of Hainan’s fine cultural traditions, with a history of over 300 years. Hainan Opera, Cantonese Opera, Chao Opera and Han Opera are called “four major operas in Southern China”. Hainan Opera, sung in Hainanese, has developed strong local characteristics and is very popular in Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi. As many Hainan Opera artists migrated to Southeast Asia at the end of the Qing Dynasty, we can still see Hainan Opera performances in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Lin’Gao Man-and-Puppet Show
Lin’gao Man-and-Puppet Show is a rare play unique to Hainan Province, with a history of more than 300 years. It is popular in the northwest of Hainan, such as Lin’gao, Danzhou and Chengmai. In puppet shows, the stage is normally covered by a screen, behind which stand the performers. The audience can only see the puppets. However, the puppet show in Lin’gao County is an exception. In a performance of Lin’gao Man-and-Puppet Show, there is no curtain between the performers and the puppets. Every performer has one puppet and the performances of the performers and the puppets intersect with each other, making this show very unique.
Acclaimed as a “living fossil” of Chinese textiles, Li brocade is an ancient textile craft invented by the Li people and was called “Jibei Cloth” in ancient times. Traditional Li weaving craftwork boasts a history of over 3,000 years, and is the earliest cotton-made product in China. Woven of cotton yarn and silk thread, this brocade is mainly used to make women’s tube-shaped skirts and bags as well as other clothing products. The symbols and patterns vary between different families and tribal groups and as many as 160 kinds of different woven patterns have been identified.
Firewood Gathering Dance of Li Ethnic Minority (Bamboo Pole Dance)
Firewood Gathering Dance is the representative folk dance of Li ethnic minority, called “Zhuancha” and “Taicha” in Li’s language. It originated from Li’s funeral custom in ancient Yazhou Prefecture (today’s Sanya City of Hainan Province). It is a dance for ancient Li people to protect corpse after someone died, drive beasts away, help someone get over a shock or to worship their ancestors. Now the Firewood Gathering Dance is also called “Bamboo Pole Dance”. The dancers jump back and forth over the moving bamboo poles, trying to match the rhythm gracefully set by the pole holders also not to fall over at the same time. This dance is quite entertaining and the atmosphere is rather hot. You can have a try when visiting Hainan Island. GREAT FUN!