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The Tujia ethnic minority (2)

(People's Daily)

09:44, August 11, 2011

Life Style

Traditionally, Tujia women wear jackets trimmed with lace and with short, broad sleeves. They wear long skirts, and wrap their coiled hair in cloth. They adorn themselves with necklaces, earrings, bracelets and ankle bracelets. Tujia men wear short jackets with many buttons in front. The traditional hand-woven "xi" and "tong" cloth with intricate designs are the main material for clothing. In pre-1949 times, the gentry wore furs in winter, while the poor peasants wore thin garments and were cold.

In the old society Tujia chiefs and officials had wooden homes with tiled roofs and carved columns, while ordinary people lived in thatched bamboo-woven houses.

At one time, young Tujias could select their marriage partners fairly freely, and courting involved a great deal of singing and dancing. Only approval of a wizard was necessary for a match. But as the feudal economy developed, marriage became more a matter of economics. Parents would calculate the value of their children as potential partners, and choice became limited by wealth. The new marriage law promulgated in the early days of the People's Republic made mercenary marriages illegal.

In feudal times, cremation of the dead was a basic custom of the Tujias. During a funeral, a Taoist priest would walk in front of a procession while a wizard chanted scripture. Burial was later adopted following association with the Hans.

The Tujias had some rather distinctive taboos. Young girls or pregnant women were not permitted to sit on thresholds, while men could not enter a house wearing straw raincoats or carrying hoes or empty buckets. Nor were people allowed to approach the communal fire or say ostensibly unlucky things on auspicious days. Young women were not allowed to sit next to male visitors, although young girls could. At worship ceremonies, cats were kept away as their meowing was considered unlucky.

Although they are dying out as the Tujias become more assimilated, religious beliefs have included Taoism, ancestor worship and a shamanistic belief in gods, ghosts and demons. Formerly, prayers were said before hunting, and when a person died, wizards were invited to expel evil spirits and ghosts from the house.

The Tujias are well-known for a hand dance with over 70 ritual gestures to indicate war, hunting, farming and feasting. The dance is popular at Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year, when several thousand people participate. Tujia epics, which are imaginative, tell of the origins of mankind and of the migrations and aspirations of the Tujias in dramatic and poetic ways. Tujia folksongs are usually about love and work, battles and grief. Virtually all Tujias can compose and sing songs.

Embroidery and weaving stand high among Tujia crafts and their patterned quilts are especially beautiful. The Tujia gunny cloth is valued for its durability.

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