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Monkey Drum of Miao Ethnic Group

By Zeng Yi | Updated : Aug 27, 2021
The Monkey Drum was passed down from generation to generation in Xiangxi, or Western Hunan. It is said that there was an ancient temple in Miaoshan Mountain. A group of monkeys sneaked into the temple to eat the holy fruit. One monkey accidentally beat a sacred drum in front of the Bodhisattva. The sound of "boom" startled the monkeys and they scrambled and crawled away.

After a while, a smart monkey found that the drum only made a sound but would not chase after him so the group of monkeys gathered around again, beating the drum wildly and dancing happily.

The sounds of the drum alarmed a young hunter, who quietly hid behind the gate of the temple. Fascinated by the scene, the young hunter printed the scene on his heart and told the villagers about the strange anecdote he had seen. The lads in the village were excited upon hearing this story, dancing and playing a borrowed drum like the monkeys. Over time, the "Monkey Drum" gradually formed.

The varied "Monkey Drum" performance combines flexible monkey jumps with martial arts movements such as pointing, beating, tapping and knocking to imitate the monkey's agile, flexible and active characteristics. There are single and pair performance as well as group performance by turns. Monkey Drum was traditionally performed by men, but in modern times, women can also be the performers. It is required that the performers fully present the attribute and manner of the monkeys in a fast, powerful and flexible way.

The performance includes trialing, listening, competing, and grabbing, playing and dancing of the monkeys with a series of actions such as going out of the hole, peeping, watching peaches, climbing trees, picking, hiding and then eating peaches, surprising, and backing to the hole. The performance time is 5 to 7 minutes.

A good performance is determined by the following factors—clear and crisp drum beat; light and fast movements; reasonable content planning; the difficulty of the movements; and sports value. The drum used vary in size and it’s good to fit the performer. The drum sticks are made of hard wood with the length of 30-40 cm and 1-2 cm in diameter.

The "Monkey Drum" mimics the attributes and movements of the monkeys vividly, which is worth appreciating. In the 7th National Traditional Sports Games for Ethnic Minorities in Ningxia, the Hunan delegation won the first prize for the "Monkey Drum" performed by the Deanghao Miao Drum Team from Jishou City.

Edited by Li Ling 

2019 Zhangjiajie Bureau of Culture, Tourism, Broadcasting and Sports