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Panwang Festival of Yao Ethnic Minority

Panwang Festival(盘王节) of Yao Ethnic Minority

The King Panwang Festival is an important festival for offering sacrifices to the ancestor Panhu. All Yao clans, both home and abroad, value this sacrifice rites.

Every year on October 16th of lunar calendar, the Yao clan, men and women, the old and the young all will be dressed in their festival best. They gather together singing and dancing, spending joyful King Panwang festival. (also called "dancing for King Panwang" or "following King Panwang"). The songs they sing are something like the happy lord based on King Panwang songs.

The dance they perform is that everybody takes a long drum of about 80centimiter dancing in group. Usually the dance is performed by two people or four. As for the King Panwang Festival, King Panwang songs and long drum dance, they all have long history.

According to the legend in Adjusting the King Panwang on October 16th which is read up to now in Jianghua Yao autonomous region in south Hunan, it is said that ancient time, when the Yao clansmen floated in boat to cross the ocean, they were caught in storm. The boat floated 49 days in sea but still could not pull in to the seashore. Both the boat and people in seemed to be doomed to death. Just at this time, someone in boat bowed imprecation to the first ancestor the King of Panwang to protect his descendants peaceful, and promised a big wish. After making a wish, all became calm. The boat then pulled in to shore, and the Yao people were saved. The day was just on October 16th of lunar calendar, which is the King Panwang's birthday. Hence, the Yao people who went ashore chopped down tree branches, and cut the wood into bowls, steamed glutinous rice into rice cakes. Thereafter, everyone sang a song and danced to celebrate the Yao’s new life and the birthday of the King Panwang. From then on, the Yao people fixed the date as the King Panwang Festival, and had it celebrated down from generation to generation.

To make absolute spirit being happy, the Yao people always spread work done by many participants, like the clan epic, the ancient song and the dance of King Panwang passed down through many generations while offering sacrifices. The king of Panwang is also called Panhu as well as the dragon dog. That is to say that the Yao clan is the race takes dogs as their totem. The song of the King Panwang carried the meaning of original faith (believe in totem, ghost and ancestry faith combined) that Yao people vividly regard and worship Panhu, (the dragon dog) as their first ancestor. The song of the King Panwang is an ancient song or epic produced and developed along with the rite activities that accompanies with the sacrifice offering to the King Panwang (or wish-returning to the King Panwang) through generations.

At the beginning, they were probably just some songs of short stanzas. Afterwards, in spreading and development (intercultural exchanges might included), and in different ages and regions the sorcery teachers and civil artists constantly added some new contents in, among which some are of the customs of people's life and feelings that surmount the religion and faith of the said race (such as the song of Pengzu, the rich and honored shicong, theliangshanbo, the dawn evening etc.) Hence, the song of the King Panwang (also the Grand Song of King Panwang) has got a huge content, and become increasingly miscellaneous. The religious sacrifice rites have been mixed with the customs of people's life and feelings. It is rare to have found this kind of congestion circumstance in other epics and ancient songs of races.

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