Lusheng Musical Instrument of Lahu Ethnic Group

“Competing for New Water” and “Lusheng (a reed pipe wind instrument) Dance”

The festivals of Lahu people include Spring Festival, Torch Festival, Xinmi (new rice) Festival, Ancestry-Worship Festival, Kala Festival, Bridge Building Festival and Gourd Festival.

Spring Festival, also known as New Year, is pronounced as “Kuonihani” in the Lahu language. It lasts from the first day to the ninth of the first Lunar month. Spring Festival of Han nationality is also celebrated by the Lahus but in name of the Bigger and Lesser festivals. The Bigger Festival lasts from the first to the fifth of the first lunar month. The Lesser Festival, known as “Lahu Men’s Festival”, lasts three days, from the seventh day to the ninth of the first lunar month. Spring Festival is thus divided because, according to Lahu’s legends, in ancient times men went out hunting during the Spring Festival. When they were home, the New Year’s Day had already passed. Therefore, their wives wanted to make up for them with a delayed celebration. As a festival for men, it is either called the Lesser Festival or “Men’s New Year’s Day.” And the former New Year’s Day is called “the Bigger Festival” or “Women’s New Year’s Day.” About this custom, there is another story. In ancient times, they were often harassed by another group. In order to give the enemy a heavy blow and defend their homeland, men made an expedition to a faraway land. When they came back in triumph, the New Year Festival was over. However, to celebrate their triumph and reunion, they had another New Year’s Day, which was celebrated with dancing and singing. This practice has been handed down from generation to generation till now.

The two occasions are the Lahu’s most joyful time. To celebrate them, people dress up in their best and dance with the music of gongs and elephant-feet-shaped drums. Lusheng (a reed pipe wind instrument) Dance is also popular among the Lahus. In the performance, the dancers imitate the most familiar motions of people at work. Almost every Lahu knows how to perform it.

“Competing for New Water” and “Lusheng Dance” are two most important and special festival activities for the Lahu’s celebration of Spring Festival.

“Competing for New Water” is such a practice that on the first day of a lunar year, each family has a member to run to a certain spring to fetch the “new water.” It is regarded as a very important business of a new year, because for the Lahus, the “new water” is sacred, and a symbol of good luck and happiness. The one who first gets the “new water” will have, for his or her family, a rich harvest of grains and fruits, and also good luck. Therefore, in the early morning, when a cock heralds the break of a day, every family’s representative member would rush to the spring to get the “new water.” And the water is first served to the worship of ancestors, and then to the old for washing his or her face.

During the Spring Festival, every village holds big Lusheng Dances, in which everyone, old or young, man or woman, are richly dressed. They gather in a clearing with several or even dozens of men in the center playing the Lusheng or leading the dance. Women, then, join their hands and form a circle around, dancing and singing to the rhythm of the music.

As a group dance, the Lahus’ Lusheng Dance is very colorful. It either represents their working scenes, or imitates the movements and gestures of animals. Because of its delicacy and passion, it is the most favored dance to the Lahu people.