Nadun Festival of Tu Ethnic Group

The old carnival—Nadun

“Nadun” is the transliteration of the Tu nationality’s language, and means “play”, “entertainment” and “game”, etc. It is a festival of joyfully celebrating harvest of the people of the Tu nationality in the regions of Guanting, Zhongchuan and Gangou, Minhe county, Qinghai province, so it is also called as “party of farmers”, “party of celebrating harvest” and “July party”, etc. 

Nadun is held in each summer after the wheat harvest, generally from July 12 to September 15 according to the lunar calendar, lasting 2 months. It takes a long time and is in a large scale, the scene is solemn, so some people say that it is “the longest carnival in the world”. The program activities begin from July 12, and are sponsored by all the local villages from the east to the west, and are ended in the central regions. By the time, on the threshing ground of wheat outside all the villages, the colored flags flutter, the drums and gongs are deafening, the voices are in a hubbub, and a jubilant and happy scene after harvest are presented. 

The main Nadun activities are dances and drama performances. The “Huishou dance” is the starting program, and is a mass collective dance which scores of and even several hundred people participate in, the participators are in the sequence from old to young. Generally the old man that wears gown, holds a fan in hands and dances at the head is the organizer or Nadun and the successor of Nadun dance. Though he is over sixty years old and wears silver beard before his breast, he still dances in vigorous strides, naturally and freely. The young people and children follow him in sequence. Accompanying with the rhythms of drums and gongs, all the people step, sway the body, move from left to right and dance by circling the ground, the dancers’ posture and movements are graceful, the atmosphere is warm and the scene is magnanimous and grand. 

After the “Huishou dance”, the dumb dance drama Crops Qi is performed by wearing the mask. It shows the scene that the father teaches agricultural production technologies to the son in the form of dance, the performance is vivid and exquisite, funny and amusing. The following is the performance of the stories in The Three Kingdoms, Three Generals and Fiver Generals; and the last is the mask dance—-The General That Killed the Tiger, which shows the production and life of the ancestors of the Tu nationality in the animal husbandry production period, and reappears the indomitable struggling spirit of the Tu nationality’s ancestors to fight against the nature. 

Nadun is the most solemn and warmest festival and cultural entertainment activity in Minhe region of the people of the Tu nationality, and is also a good opportunity for the people to visit relatives and friends, communicate the production and life experiences mutually, and study and spread new thoughts and knowledge. For the male and female youths of first awaking of love, Nadun is a good opportunity for them to look for an understanding partner. 

About the source of Nadun, an interesting legend still spreads among the people of the Tu nationality: long long ago, there was a carpenter of the Tu nationality, he was summoned by the king to construct a palace because of his outstanding technology and great fame. After the magnificent palace was finished, the king unexpectedly ordered to execute all the craftsmen, including the carpenter of the Tu nationality, because he wanted to solely enjoy all good things in the world. The carpenter tried to flee back to hometown, and assembled the crowd and started an uprising. The king assigned the army to suppress them. The village people that were surrounded completely by the official army would get drowned. At the critical juncture, the carpenter suddenly thought out a good stratagem, and ordered all the people not to be flurried. They beat the drums and gongs, and said that they were holding the activities of celebrating harvest, and carried the war flags and painted weapons on their shoulders to the temples in the village. The official army found that all the people were calm and unhurried, and had no the sign of rebellion, so they withdrew the troops and returned back. To memorize this quick-witted and brave carpenter, the people began to hold the similar activities every year after that, and it was passed down as a custom and developed to the present Nadun.