Dong Ethnic People Bull Fighting Festival
- Location: Kaili
Many of the 70 Dong villages in the Miao & Dong Autonomous Prefecture in southeastern Guizhou hold bullfight competitions in late January or early February and late August or early September each year. They are held twice each year. The date depends on the ‘Hai” day of their lunar calendar. These specially trained and groomed bulls don’t take part in the farm work generally, but they are fed special food like honey and are pampered.The Dong people in the area of southeastern Guizhou enjoy the bullfights. It is gory. And bull fight spectacles are a part of many of their festivals. But the two days each year are festivals especially for the bull fights. The ceremony and spectacle may interest some travellers.
A “king bull” is bred and especially fed and pampered to grow big and fierce. The bull pen of the king bull is usually near the village drum tower. Every Dong village in the area has a drum tower that is a meeting pavilion and special temple. People supply the animal with herbs, forage, water, and sometimes even wine and honey. The idea is to make the animal big. The horns are allowed to grow out, and they may be sharpened for the fight.
The ceremony begins when young men go out playing their Lusheng flutes. The Dong people are noted for their musical ability and choirs. The UNESCO World Heritage Organization lists Dong choirs and their complex choir music as an intangible world heritage. They go to other villages to challenge them to a bull fight. Then people go in front of the big king bull bull pen and play their flutes in front of it. This apparently enrages the bulls and makes them want to attack or makes them nervous. Then the bulls are led to a bull pen where there are marched around in display.
Harnesses are put on the bulls to control them. Banners and feathers are also planted on the bulls. This is reminiscent of how Spanish bull fighters plant colored barbs on bulls to enrage them. Then people light fires to throw in front of the bulls. This probably really scares the bulls. People beat drums and gongs to further frighten the bulls, and then they are let loose. The bulls run at each other and begin fighting. The one left alive is the winner. If there is no winner, then the bulls’ legs are tied up.
It is interesting that this ceremony is also a chance for young people to meet each other. The girls from the winning village are allowed to go and get a banner off the dead animal. In order to get the banner back, the losing village young men must make a feast of the dead bull and invite the young women. Then the men sing for them, and the girls give back the village’s banner. So some of the winning village members also get a good meal and a choral concert as well.
China Highlights' Ethnic Minority Tours to Guizhou provide travelers with a great chance to experience the Miao and Dong ethnic people's ancient culture.