Ma Guai Festival of Zhuang Ethnic Group

The “Ma Guai Festival,” also known as the “Frog Festival,” is a significant cultural event among the Zhuang people, specifically in areas like Donglan, Bama, Tian’e, and Fengshan. It is rooted in the worship of frogs, which are considered divine beings by some Zhuang communities.

The festival takes place in the first month of the lunar year and involves various rituals and ceremonies centered around the frog totem. Here’s an overview of the key customs associated with the Ma Guai Festival:

  1. Frog Hunting: On the first day of the lunar new year, people venture into fields and other natural habitats to search for hibernating frogs. The first person to find a frog is honored as the “Ma Guai man” or “son-in-law of the goddess” and becomes the headman of the festival.
  2. Procession: The discovered frog is placed in a “precious coffin,” typically a section of thick bamboo, and then carried back to the village in a colorful litter known as the “flower house.” The procession proceeds to a designated pavilion called “Ma Guai Ting.”
  3. Ceremonial Activities: From the first day until the 25th day of the lunar month, children carry the precious coffin containing the frog to different households, singing ancient Ma Guai songs during the day. At night, villagers gather at the pavilion to keep vigil beside the frog’s coffin.
  4. Harvest Predictions: Before the ceremony, the previous year’s Ma Guai coffin is opened to examine the frog’s body. If the body is black or gray, it is considered a bad omen for the harvest, prompting rituals to seek divine favor. If the body is golden, it signifies a forthcoming good harvest, leading to celebrations and jubilation.
  5. Conclusion of the Festival: After the 25th day of the lunar month, the frog is buried, and the Ma Guai man hosts a gathering for senior members of each household to celebrate the frog’s journey to heaven. Villagers then engage in singing, dancing, and festivities throughout the night to mark the conclusion of the Ma Guai Festival.

The Ma Guai Festival serves as a cultural celebration, reinforcing the significance of the frog totem in Zhuang spirituality and providing an opportunity for community bonding and expression of gratitude for the upcoming harvest.