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Life Along the Chong'an River(2)
Special Customs in a Ge Village

Legend has that once upon a time, a man in a Ge village vowed that he could cross a hundred mountains and kill a hundred tigers in three days. If he failed in his quest, he believed that he would leave home for good. His wife similarly pledged that she would fetch a hundred loads of water and cook a hundred baskets for rice, or she too would no longer be worthy of remaining in the Ge village. Having made these vows, the man set off for the mountains and the woman headed to the river. Three days later, both of them had accomplished what they set out to do. Together they killed the last tiger and brought peace to their mountain village.

Antiphonal or "cross" singing is an indisppensable part of life among young Ge people.

Whenever young men and women get together in courtyards or in the mountains, they invariably separate into two groups according to sex and begin their antiphonal singing. First the men sing a verse of a song and the women answer, also in song. This is done in groups or by couples as a courtship ritual.

Apart from singing, the Ge poople also enjoy dancing. One of their favourite dances is
called the Lusheng Pipe Dance, performed by one man and one woman. Before the dance begins, a row of men with pipes stand outside a shed and begin to play their instruments. One girl first listens, and then chooses her would-be fiancee. She follows him into the shed and begins dancing. The young man plays the pipe while tapping his foot to the beat, and then turns round and purposely steps lightly on the girl's toes with his heel. The dance is always a lively affair, full of fun and laughter.

Since the Ge poeple live in remote mountainous areas they have been able to preserve their own unique culture, handing down their knowlege and traditions from generation to generation. One of the skills the Ge are most well known for is their batik making. The batik patterns produced here are highly geometric and usually depict flowers, plants, inscets, fish, birds and animals. Often appear almost abstract. Other designs are neat and concise, with dots and lines creating varied patterns.

Batik-making is very much a part of the Ge women's life. Each household has batik-making
tools begin at an early age to learn from their mothers how to make patterns on clothe with melted wax. By the time they reach their teens they are able to draw simple patterns on their own. When they are old enough to marry, they are already skilled at drawing, and by then have prepared their own batik wedding dresses and bedding.

Watching Ge women make batik is indeed an aesthetic experience. Many are so proficient at drawing that they can even do geometric patterns freehand. If a pattern is especially
complicated, they count the number of threads and trace a draft on the cloth with their
fingernails. They then spread a piece of white cloth on a board, melt some wax in a bowl over a charcoal burner, and when the temperature of the wax reaches a certain point, it is used like ink to draw all kinds of beautiful patterns. A complicated procedure to the eyes of a laypersons, batik-making is just part of a day's work for Ge women, an indispensable skill that they all must master.

Although they live in remote regions and retain many of their traditional customs, I found the Ge people to be very open-minded, and not at all all averse to modern life. At the Guiyang Hotel in the capital I met a number of Ge women who were employed there, all of whom seemed to be well-informed on recent events. The men are perhaps slightly less resilient, and worry that if too many Ge women get jobs in the cities there will be no one left in the villages, a valid concern.
Special Customs in a Ge Village

Legend has that once upon a time, a man in a Ge village vowed that he could cross a hundred
mountains and kill a hundred tigers in three days. If he failed in his quest, he believed
that he would leave home for good. His wife similarly pledged that she would fetch a hundred loads of water and cook a hundred baskets for rice, or she too would no longer be worthy of remaining in the Ge village. Having made these vows, the man set off for the mountains and the woman headed to the river. Three days later, both of them had accomplished what they set out to do. Together they killed the last tiger and brought peace to their mountain village.

Antiphonal or "cross" singing is an indisppensable part of life among young Ge people.

Whenever young men and women get together in courtyards or in the mountains, they invariably separate into two groups according to sex and begin their antiphonal singing. First the men sing a verse of a song and the women answer, also in song. This is done in groups or by couples as a courtship ritual.

Apart from singing, the Ge poople also enjoy dancing. One of their favourite dances is
called the Lusheng Pipe Dance, performed by one man and one woman. Before the dance begins, a row of men with pipes stand outside a shed and begin to play their instruments. One girl first listens, and then chooses her would-be fiancee. She follows him into the shed and begins dancing. The young man plays the pipe while tapping his foot to the beat, and then turns round and purposely steps lightly on the girl's toes with his heel. The dance is always a lively affair, full of fun and laughter.

Since the Ge poeple live in remote mountainous areas they have been able to preserve their own unique culture, handing down their knowlege and traditions from generation to generation. One of the skills the Ge are most well known for is their batik making. The batik patterns produced here are highly geometric and usually depict flowers, plants, inscets, fish, birds and animals. Often appear almost abstract. Other designs are neat and concise, with dots and lines creating varied patterns.

Batik-making is very much a part of the Ge women's life. Each household has batik-making
tools begin at an early age to learn from their mothers how to make patterns on clothe with melted wax. By the time they reach their teens they are able to draw simple patterns on their own. When they are old enough to marry, they are already skilled at drawing, and by then have prepared their own batik wedding dresses and bedding.


Watching Ge women make batik is indeed an aesthetic experience. Many are so proficient at drawing that they can even do geometric patterns freehand. If a pattern is especially
complicated, they count the number of threads and trace a draft on the cloth with their
fingernails. They then spread a piece of white cloth on a board, melt some wax in a bowl over a charcoal burner, and when the temperature of the wax reaches a certain point, it is used like ink to draw all kinds of beautiful patterns. A complicated procedure to the eyes

of a laypersons, batik-making is just part of a day's work for Ge women, an indispensable skill that they all must master.

Although they live in remote regions and retain many of their traditional customs, I found the Ge people to be very open-minded, and not at all all averse to modern life. At the Guiyang Hotel in the capital I met a number of Ge women who were employed there, all of whom seemed to be well-informed on recent events. The men are perhaps slightly less resilient, and worry that if too many Ge women get jobs in the cities there will be no one left in the villages, a valid concern.

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