Bouyei ethnic group: talk about love through songs
The Bouyei people, the 11th largest of China's 56 ethnic groups, inhabit the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, which slopes from an altitude of 1,000 meters in the north to 400 meters in the south. The Miaoling Mountains stretch across the plateau, forming part of its striking landscape.
The Bouyei are also skilled in arts and crafts. Their colorful and beautifully-patterned batik-- hand-dyed fabrics that use wax to augment and differentiate colorful designs-- date far back to ancient times. Batik has become one of their best-selling handicrafts, popular both on domestic and foreign markets.
In addition, their colorful embroidery, exquisite summer sleeping mats and bamboo-hats, stitched to practical perfection for protection in the Bouyei's semi-tropical climate, are not only durable and attractive, but also highly artistic. The Bouyei, who are a highly musical people, also use bamboo from the surrounding forests to create a variety of vertical bamboo flutes, such as the suona horn, yueqin, dongxiao, short xiao, and sister xiao, for use in their own musical traditions.
The Bouyeis are monogamous-- but not simply monogamous: they are musically monogamous. And being musically monogamous usually unmarried young people begin their courtship and journey toward married life by singing love songs when they go to fairs or other festivities. If a Bouyei woman is attracted to a man, she shows her interest in entering into an engagement by throwing him a ball made of silk strips which she has embroidered herself. If the man chooses to reciprocate the woman's customary indication of interest, according to custom he will send his sister with presents to sing a song to the woman.
If the woman is satisfied with her admirer and his music, as delivered to the woman's ears by the admirer's sister, the two become a couple, upon which they keep away from the crowd and-- further entering into their romantic musical ritual on the pathway to monogamy-- sing more love songs to each other. After several dates, also involving the young man and woman performing singing duets with each other, they may officially announce their engagement.