Munao dance of the Jingpo Nationality


One of the dances that better exemplifies the original sacred character of dancing is the Munao dance of the Jingpo nationality. The people usually dance in two, four or six circles, a ceremony that can last for hours.

The dance follows a pattern that reflects the migrations of the ancestors of the Jingpo people. Sometimes the ceremony is attended by thousands of people that come down the mountains to participate in this sacred event.

Munao dances are performed every year on the 15th day of the first lunar month, but sometimes can be performed if special events happen in the community. So, according to Li Beida (1), there are five different kinds of Munao dances.

1. Zeng Munao, danced to celebrate a good harvest.
2. Purdang Munao, danced when there is a war.
3. Nian Munao, danced to offer sacrifice to their main god: Modikui.
4. Gongrang Munao, danced when members of the family separate, divide up family property and settle apart.
5. Gongli Munao, performed when the family migrates or moves to a new house.

According to the legends of the Jingpo nationality, Munao dance was first performed when the God of the Sun invited the birds to dance in the heaven. Later the human beings learn from the birds how to dance it.

Even today, the leader of the dancing party, called Naoshuang in Jingpo language, hold bird's feathers on his head. He must hold also a boar's tusk and wear a dragon suit.

Of all these kinds of Munao dances, the most important is the ceremony held as a sacrifice asking Modikui for a good harvest and the increase in the family members and livestock.

The sacred character of this dance is continuously remembered. In the center of the ground where it will be held must be placed four trunks "engraved with drawings and words, a representation of the migration map of the Jingpo ancestors from northwest plateau to their present living place."

"The dancing pattern is a winding path which hints at the hardships faced by their ancestors in their migration." Thousands of dancers, all them attired with their best clothes, the men holding swords in their arms, the women shaking colourful handkerchiefs, follow the rhythm who marks the leader.

(1) Li Beida.- dances of the Chinese minorities. China Intercontinental Press. Beijing. 2006

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