Name : Harvest Ceremony for the Gaoshan People
Date : the fifth day of the eighth lunar month
The indigenous ethnic groups in Taiwan, which were generally called Gaoshan people in the Chinese mainland, have a population of 400, 000, most of which live in the central mountain areas as well as the Zonggu Plain and Lanyu Island east of Taiwan. There are also some 4, 500 Gaoshan people scattered in Fujian, Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu. They speak Gaoshan language but write in Chinese since their language has no written forms.
Gaoshan people practice primitive religion, believing in animatisms and worshiping heaven, nature and spiritual beings. Some of them are converted to Christianity when it was brought to China. Their traditional festivals are all religious and basically take the form of offering sacrifices. The typical ceremonies include Cultivation Ceremony, Seeding Ceremony, Weeding Ceremony, Harvest Ceremony, Ancestor's Spirit Ceremony, Fishing and-Hunting Ceremony, etc. Among them, the Harvest Ceremony is celebrated by all Gaoshan people and is the most important one.
The annual Harvest Ceremony of the Gaoshan people is equivalent to the Spring Festival of the Han people. It is held in the harvest season, usually in the eighth lunar month. Everyone, old and young, put on their festival best women wear flowers, brooch, earrings and bracelets, men wear feather hats (or insert two or three bird feathers in hair) and tie bronze bells to their waist belts. Those younger prefer small bells fastened around their ankles. People eat meat, drink wine, sing and dance, totally immersed in the happiness of the festival.
Dancing and singing is a vital criterion for young people to pick up their mates. When a girl falls for a boy, she would go up to dance with him, and let the expressive steps do the speaking. If a boy is adept at farming, singing and dancing, he would find more than two girls surrounding him. The mass dance, called "Hand-in-Hand Dance," features a combination of singing and dancing without instrumental accompaniment.
The time-honored and widely popular "Hand-in-Hand Dance" has been entertaining the Gaoshan people for over one thousand years, as a daily recreation or as a special treat on occasions. Led by a talented singer, the participants sing and dance in one or several circles. The lyrics always pay homage to ancestors or legendary heroes. It is a spectacular scene when hundreds or even thousands of people are singing aloud and dancing in uniform steps. Some men in excitement would bend down till their feather hats touch the ground before they rise up again. The intoxicated audiences just can't wait to join in them.