Culture\Music and Theater

Chants in the hills

By Chen Nan and Yang Jun | China Daiky | Updated: 2017-03-13 07:06

Chants in the hills

The chanting of verses from the King Yalu epic is a common feature at funerals and festivals of the Miao ethnic group.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Due to the country's rapid modernization, such folk traditions are fading, especially because very few Miao people seem to be interested in carrying on with it.

Chen Xinghua, 73, is among the few members of the community who can sing the epic. He learned it as a teenager from his uncle, Wei Changxiu.

Like Yang Changrong, Wei is also the only dong lang, or singer, in his village, Daha, located in the same county in Guizhou.

"It is said that completing all the verses of the King Yalu epic takes at least 10 days and the acts are performed by at least four people. But now, we perform a shorter version because nobody can sing it entirely," says Chen.

Invited by rural residents to conduct funeral rites, Chen gave over 50 performances in 2016. But he gets paid more in kind (meals) than cash.

In 2015, Huang Laojin, who was considered the only dong lang capable of singing King Yalu in its entirety, died in Gejing village in Ziyun county, aged 99.

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