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Asia - China / Sisters' Meals Festival Of Miao Ethnic Group

No one can tell when this ancient festival originated, but the 500 years of history of Shidong implies that the festival dates back to the remote past. Generally, 5 legends are much told in the village.


1. An unverified story says that there was a Miao village in Taijiang County of Guizhou Province. The men there went hunting at a faraway place and didn't return for a very long time. There were many women and children and 70 beautiful girls in the village. The women raised their children after returning from the farm and led an eternal life. The girls picked fruits on mountains and worked on the farm and spun, weaved and embroidered at home. They worked so hard that the boxes were full of colorful cloth and brocades. The brocades they weaved were even more beautiful than the rosy clouds on the sky and the flowers they embroidered attracted many bees and butterflies, but the 70 girls, who were at the age of 16, always felt that they were short of something, which always made them unhappy. Then they concentrated in opening up wasteland at a place with abundant water. They worked and worked and finally opened up an extremely large area of farmland. So they put many fish in it and sowed sticky rice in spring. Thus, they had a good harvest in autumn and their storehouses were full of sticky rice. They also made jars of sticky rice wine. However, they still felt that there was a lack of something in their life although they led a well-off life, so they seldom sang and laughed.


The old people knew what they needed and thought of a good idea. They suggested that they put the remaining sticky rice and wine in storage and when the next spring came they made the sticky rice into tasty meals and captured some fish, shrimps, and snails in the farmland, and then invite the young boys from faraway villages to eat Sister Rice, drink wine, dance and choose their sweet hearts. The next year, some of these girls realized their dream and got married. From then on, eating Sister Rice has become their particular festival.


2. Another unverified story says that the Miao people formerly lived in the faraway east. Then they had to migrate westerly because of their difficult life caused by the increase of population and disasters and wars. Whenever they got to a place and lived for a period of time, some girls got married and when they migrated again, the married girls couldn't get home any more. How difficult was it that they met and parted! So they decided to capture some fish and shrimps every spring and invite the married sisters to have Sister Rice and pour out their heart with the unmarried. After that they said goodbye reluctantly. Thus the annual Sister Festival came into being.


3. The third legend says that there was once an old man and his wife who had three beautiful daughters. One day while they played on the riverside, the young girls felt lovesick. Zhang Guolao, a bearded God who carried a bamboo tubular drum, possessed the spirits of the girls, telling them to prepare five-colored rolls of glutinous rice filled with shrimp, fish and other special things. When young men came down from the mountain, the beautiful girls presented the rice to them. In this way, the young girls found their marriage partners.


4. The fourth legend goes that there was once a family with seven daughters. The girls were very beautiful when they grew up, and they wanted to marry good men. Their parents promised to help make their wishes come true. At their parents' urging, the seven girls went to the mountain to gather leaves, flowers and herbs. They then cooked pots of colorful rice. The family invited young men from the village and neighboring communities to eat the rice, sing folk songs during the daytime and dance away the night. The non-stop singing and dancing allowed the girls to test and observe the men. After three days and nights of singing and dancing, the girls chose from about 100 men their dream husbands. They presented the men colored rice and told them to choose a time to return for the wedding ceremonies. By cooking colorful rice and inviting men from miles around for food, singing and dancing, the sisters became the first of the Miao people to marry for love. That helped the group's culture to evolve.


5. The last legend is going about that a boy named Jin Dan and a girl named A-Jiao, the children of two women, were childhood sweethearts and innocent playmates. After growing up they fell in love with each other and were determined to get married, but the parents of A-Jiao forced her to marry the son of her mother's brother. A-Jiao refused this resolutely. Jin Dan also refused to marry another girl and kept waiting for A-Jiao.


They dated secretly in the open field every day to avoid being found by their parents and others. Every time A-Jiao put rice secretly in a bamboo basket, which was used for loading needlework and took it to Jin Dan. Finally they became a couple after a series of tribulations and struggles. Thus the literary quotation of "Sister Rice" came into being, which is called "Gad Liang" in Miao language and is transcribed as "Sister Rice" in Chinese.


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Taken on April 18, 2011