In the town of Shidong, the Miao celebrate the Zimei Festival every year on the fifteenth day of the third lunar month. Young Miao men and women dress up in traditional costumes and gather at the village squares of Rongjiang, Yangjia and Pianzhai. This annual tradition is an exuberant celebration of Miao culture. Called “Nong ga liang” in the Miao language, the festival centers on young women who travel from village to village, singing and dancing dressed in their finest silver jewelry, and offering Zimei rice to boys as a token of their affection.
On May 20th, 2006, the Zimei Festival celebrations of Taijiang County in Guizhou Province were among the first traditions to be designated “National Intangible Cultural Heritage” by the Chinese Government.
Mothers dress their daughters in elaborate costumes and jewelry, and then they all join in the dance circles around the drums, competing to show off not only their beauty but also their jewelry. The girls with the most silver are the pride of their families and display the highest arts of traditional Miao clothing.
In the evening, groups of young men and young women sing love songs back and forth to each other. The men are trying to compete for the girl’s attention, hoping she will give him some Zimei rice. For her part, the girl will hide a small token in the rice which could either be a symbol of interest or disdain.
The different colors of the Zimei rice each have their own unique symbolism. The color green represents home and the waters of the Qingshui River. Red symbolizes prosperity and growth of the villiage. Yellow symbolizes bountiful harvests of grain. Purple and blue symbolize wealth, and white symbolizes the purity of love.
The different tokens hidden in the Zimei rice communicate different sentiments. If a girl hides a pine bough in the rice, it represents needles, inviting the young man to reciprocate by giving her needles and threads to embroider flowers. If a girl hides a set of red chopsticks in the rice, it means she wants to pair with the boy. If it is a ball of cotton, that means the girl has been thinking about the boy. But if the rice hides garlic or a hot pepper it means she’s not interested in him.
In Collaboration with Riverbend Academy of Hmongology, Guizhou, China
--- Exhibition Crew ---
Culture Consultants: Yang Peide, An Hong
Project Coordinator: Cecilia Xiong
Exhibition Curator: Lin Wen (email@example.com)
Chief Photographer: Austin Kramer
Other Photographers: Huang Xiaohai, Shi Kaibao, Lin Wen
Content Writer: Lin Wen
Translator: Austin Kramer, Li Yi, Liu Qing, Lin Wen
Proofreader: Austin Kramer
Video Clip Editor: Lin Wen
--- Mini Documentary Film Crew ---
Director: Lu Ying
Assistant Director: Zhang Te
Video Photographer: Zhi Yuehui, Zhang Te, Ji Xiang
Film Editor: Lu Ying, Zhi Yuehui, Suiwu Changjun
Script Writer: Yang Peide
Script Editor: Lin Wen
Color Adjust: Zhong Rujie, Zhi Yuehui
Music: Audio Jungle
Recording: Chenguang Recording Studio