Dong, culture of

Dong, culture of
This minority nationality, also called Kam, lives mainly on the Hunan-Guangxi-Guizhou border area, their population being 2,514,014 (1990 census). The Dong speak a language belonging to the Zhuang-Dong branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family (see Sino-Tibetan language speakers). They lacked a writing system until 1958, when the Latin alphabet was adapted to the Dong language. Although this written language remains in use, most Dong use Chinese characters more readily.
The Dong are agricultural, their diet based on rice. Large Dong villages have about 700 households, although most are quite small, with only twenty to thirty. Houses are two-storeyed, with livestock and firewood kept on the lower floor.
They are wooden and closely built, fire being a major hazard.
Characteristic features of the larger villages are splendidly designed high drum-towers, some of them a dozen storeys or so. These are used for festivities, performances or meetings. Some villages also have ‘wind-and-rain bridges’ (fengyu qiao), which are covered and supported by ornate pagoda-like structures at intervals. They serve as venues for social gatherings of various kinds, including dances or performances. The Dong have a form of drama, of nineteenth-century origin, and it remains fairly popular. The most famous item is Julang and Nyangmui, a tragic love story in which the lovers are themselves Dong. A landlord kills Julang because he lusts after Nyangmui, but she is later able to take revenge.
Geary, D.N., Geary, R., Ou, Chaoquan, Long, Yaohon, Jiang, Daren and Wang, Jiying (2001). The Kam People of China, Turning Nineteen? Richmond, Surrey: Curzon.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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