by Rick Green
The elder men of Upper Langde Village play a song on lusheng (芦笙) as part of a Miao group welcome ceremony. To enter Upper Langde, visitors must traditionally consume "roadblock liquor" at twelve stages set up on the path to the village gate. At each roadblock, costumed women sing to persuade guests to drink their homemade rice liquor which they offer in buffalo-horn cups.
Upper Langde is located at the foot of Leigong Mountain on the bank of the Danjiang River in Leishan County of southwestern China's Guizhou Province. It is home to over 130 families of Long Skirt Miao. Established over 600 years ago, the village has maintained its traditional character with densely-packed wooden houses constructed without the use of nails. Rice, corn potato, sweet potato, and tobacco are the main crops grown in the surrounding fields. The main draw for tourists is the lusheng and bronze drum dance performances featuring village women dressed in their finest hand-embroidered clothes and festooned with heavy silver jewelry.
The lusheng is a polyphonic woodwind instrument made from multiple bamboo pipes of different pitches fitted with a free reed that are attached to a bamboo hardwood wind chamber. They range in size from 300 centimetres to four metres in length. A traditional instrument used by the Dong and Miao of southwest China, lusheng are typically played in ensembles during festivals, funerals, and weddings. The largest lusheng festivals in Guizhou are in Zhouxi in the first lunar month and Gulong in the ninth lunar month.
Interested in visiting Langde Miao Village to see a spectacular lusheng dance performance? Join Brian K. Smith and I in August on our Southwest China Cultural Minorities and Classical Landscapes tour to Guizhou and Guangxi. Our local guide is from Langde and his family still lives here.
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