The Mysterious Chinese Miao Guzang Festival
The GuZang Festival (牯藏节) is a great occasion for the Miao people to worship their ancestors. They sacrifice bulls, beat drums, and hold other exciting ceremonies. In the Chinese language, the word Gu means a bull, while Zang means viscera of an animal. The festival only happens once every 13 years, at end of September or November.
One of the most important part of the festival is beating drums. A Miao drum is crafted with maple wood. People use cowhide to cover both ends of the drum. The Miao think the soul of their ancestors exists in this huge drum. So during the festival, they beat the drum very loudly to wake up their ancestors, who take part in their exciting worshiping ceremony.
Two different kinds of drums are used in the festival. One is the double drum, which includes two identical drums. All together they reach 170 cm in length and 30 cm in diameter. The double drums are usually put in a couple’s home, who has been married for a long time but doesn’t have a child. They worship the double drums to expect that the drums can give them children. On the day of festival, people take the double drums out for the ceremony.
For each Guzang Festival, the Miao have a new single drum. After the festival is over, they place the drum in a cave until it decays. The single drum is quite smaller than the double drums.
In the August before a Guzang festival, the Miao drag the old single drum out of the cave, then they will hold a praying ceremony. After that a new single drum is ready to be made.
An elderly man is selected as the leader, who presides over the worshiping ceremony a full two years before the festival! This man is in charge of choosing the sacred bulls. The sacred bulls can’t be used for farming, and they are fed carefully until the ceremony.
The most conspicuous person during the festival is the leader in a special costume. He wears violet shirt, with some dried fish tied up around his head. This suggests that their ancestors ever resided along the Yangtze river in east China and lived on fishing.
On the first few days of the festival, people sing, dance, and hold numerous banquets to feast friends, neighbors, and relatives. Anyone who visits their village is warmly welcomed! They have meat and bean curd, but they can’t eat vegetables. The festival lasts 13 days.