Panwang Festival of Yao Ethnic Group

Panhu Worshipping and Panwang Festival

Panhu, which is also called Panwang and Pangu, is the name of a legendary dragonlike dog. Panhu is actually a totem to the Yao people. Many Yao people believe that Panhu is their first ancestor. They worship him and offer sacrifice to him and gradually a particular fete came into being—Panwang Festival.

It was said that when Emperor Ku, or King Gaoxin was in power, his wife suffered from an ear disease for quite a long time. But later she fully recovered after a golden worm was picked out of her ear. Shortly afterwards the golden worm, which had been kept under a gourd, grew into a dragon-like dog with brocade lines all over the body. Hence the name Panhu came. (“Hu” means a kind of gourd.) Cute and smart, Panhu was adored by Emperor Ku and other officials. Later due to a rebellion attempt by a powerful foreign chief, Emperor Ku posted a notice for those who could bring him the chopped-off head of the chief. As a reward the emperor would let the man marry his daughter. Since no officer had the courage to suppress the rebellion, Panhu went there all by himself. Taking the chance of the chief’s hangover, he bit his head off and sent the head to Emperor Ku, who carried out his promise and married his daughter off.

Panhu, after staying in a golden bell for six days, then turned into a human being. After marriage Emperor conferred on him the title of “king of Shibao Palace” in Nanjing, for which he gained the name of “Panwang”(“wang” refers to king). However he showed no interest in wealth and rank and moved together with his wife to Zhongnanshan, where they went hunting and cultivated land and had their own children. Later Emperor Ku gave each of his twelve children, six boys and six girls, a surname, which became the earliest surnames of Yao people. Once when he was hunting, Panwang was hit by a goat and fell down the cliff and died. His children and grandchildren increased in number and the Yao nationality came into being.

Even after his death, Panwang still blesses and protects his offsprings. Legendary has it that one year the Yao villages were stricken by severe droughts. As a result, all the villagers with the twelve surnames had to leave their native land to flee from a calamity. Things went from bad to worse when they were hit by a storm on their boat. At this moment they could do nothing but to prey to their first ancestor for protection, hoping that he would bless them safely in shore. It turned out that their wish was realized and they arrived safely in shore on October the 16th in the lunar calendar, which happened to be Panwang’s birthday. Yao people celebrated for their survival and redeemed a vow to Panwang by offering sacrifice to him. This became a convention and is still kept today.

Panwang Festival, which is also called “Tiao Panwang”, “Qing Panwang”, “Zuo Panwang” and “Huan Panwang Yuan”, is one of the most important festivals of Yao people. In the past this festival was celebrated in different scale at different time: some celebrated annually, some every three to five years; some hold activities within one household, some celebrated this festival together with other villages. During the festival, they not only slaughtered animals and had big feast with relatives and friends, but also recited lections, resorted to magic arts, danced “Panwang dance” and sung “Panwang songs”. At the National Yao Delegates Conference held in Nanning, Guangxi in August 1984, it was confirmed that Panwang Festival is held every August the 16th in the lunar calendar as a common festival for all the Yao people. Today’s Panwang Festival, with various cultural and recreational activities, has taken on a more jubilant, auspicious and convivial atmosphere.