The ethnic Dong people's tradition of passing on culture and knowledge through music is exemplified by their Grand Song. It was included in UNESCO'S list of intangible cultural heritages in 2009, but its continued existence is far from secure.
Is it the sound of cicadas? No, it is not. It is the Grand Song. And the song is being sung in Xiao Huang village in Cong Jiang County of Guizou (a nice tourists destination for China vacation deals). With no written language, the Dong people here have used songs to record their history and express their hospitality for many years. It is something they start learning to sing at quite an early age.
Pan Yuxin, "Grand Song" master of Xiaohuang Village, said, "Dong people start to learn Grand Song when they are around four years old. By the age of 20, they are able to sing many songs. There are several parts in the Grand Song, including the high and low pitches. I teach them step by step. "
Pan Yuxin has been teaching the Grand Song in her spare time for more than 40 years. She says young people singing in the village can only earn about 500 Yuan per month. She is worried that more and more young people are going outside the village to earn money. If you are lucky enough, you may have a chanc to hear it after your tired popular China travel package.
"I am really worried that they cannot sing the Grand Song any more. When they come back, I always ask them to learn singing."
The Grand Song has been listed in the local school's curriculum and there is a teacher there to teach pupils. But she earns only about 1000 Yuan per month.
Pan Jinlian, "Grand Song" teacher of Xiaohuang school, said, "The money cannot cover my expenses. My family members help me a lot by doing farm work. My son will enter middle school soon. It will cost more money. It bothers me a lot."
Pan Jinlian says she will continue teaching the Grand Song. But she sincerely hopes that the government can provide more financial support.
Jiang Qian said, "Being included on UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage is not the final aim for those who have inherited the Grand Song. It means a new start: the Dong people here are responsible for protecting and developing this cultural legacy. Actually, people here are quite enthusiastic about it. But it needs more guidance and support from the government.
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Guizhou's endangered musical legacy