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Yangge and Waist Drum Dance
During the season in winter, young people in villages in northern Shanxi begin doing the yangge dance and waist drum dancing in order to greet Spring Festival (first day of the first lunar month) and Lantern Festival (15th of the first lunar month).
On the lunar New Year's Day, after eating jiaozi, the yangge group begins paying New Year calls to the households. They wish the hosts a happy New Year and do the yangge dance in the courtyards. Accompanied by drums, they wave red silk waist bands. The hosts set off firecrackers to welcome the dancers' arrival and invite them to taste their home-made rice wine. The sounds of songs, drums and firecrackers blend, creating a festive atmosphere in the village. Yangge originated 2,000 years ago, as a religious activity to greet gods and dispel evil, but now it is a recreational activity in the sowing season or on holidays.

The most interesting part is waist drum dancing. A dancer with a red drum tied to his waist holds a drumstick with red silk, beating the drum while dancing. The rhythmical drum sound and graceful dance show the straightforward and uninhibited character of villagers in northern Shanxi Province and is an expression of their happy and passionate feelings.

Ansai waist drum dancing and Luochuan waist drum dancing in northern Shanxi have distinctive features. Ansai dancing includes vigorous movements accompanied by rhythmic drumbeats. At the climax of the dance, dancers beat drums while jumping into the air, uttering the sound "Haihai"excitedly. Louchuan dancing is done with a drum as big as washbasin and the drumstick is long and thin. The dancers wear white war gowns, with a towel tied on their heads and flags on their backs. Their costumes are decorated with the designs of ancient bronze wares. They dance back and forth, jumping from time to time, to the drums just like soldiers fighting each other.
Decayed wooden drums covered with boa skins were unearthed from the Yin ruins of Anyang City, Henan Province, which implies that drums appeared more than 3,000 years ago. In ancient times, drums were used to offer sacrifices, fight the enemy, sound alarms, and give the time, as well as for daily recreational activities.

As for the origin of the waist drum in north Shanxi Province it is thought that it was a tool for officers in ancient times and for soldiers stationed at borders to sound alarms, and give the time, as well as for daily recreational activities.

As for the origin of the waist drum in north Shanxi Province it is thought that it was a tool for officers in ancient times and for soldiers stationed at borders to sound alarms and train troops. Especially for cavalries, the drums accompanied the rhythm of the horse's hooves, as the soldiers yelled and advanced. Later, the waist drums were handed down among the people by demobilized soldiers. This was deduced from the fact that the waist drums in northern Shanxi are popular in the frontier fortress regions near the ancient Great Wall and that dancers dress in the clothing of ancient warriors and the dances have martial elements and formations similar to those of ancient times. Another view of the origin of the dance is that shepherds in northern Shanxi Province were the earliest makers of the waist drums. They beat drums made with sheepskin to liven up their lonely life. Later, beating drums, along with other percussion instruments, gradually became a recreational activity for villagers to pray for favourable weather for crops and a happy life.

by courtesy of Mr. Qiu Huanxing and Mr. Lu Zhongmin,
the authors of Folk Customs Of China

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