After doing some shopping and taking photos of the local Yao people, we were escorted into a performance hall and seated to watch a local traditional show. The Yao women with their long hair came out and began singing, their voices carried an eerie but beautiful sound. Their costumes were brightly colored and we enjoyed as they sang and danced. I caught the video below so that you could hear their voices.
Later some men came out and sang and danced as well. They were brought on stage by the sounding of a horn (second part of the video above). The Yao performed about a half-dozen songs and dance routines for us illustrating their unique cultural heritage.
Between some of the performances, we were treated to a Yao drink. And later, the announcer called for male volunteers. I had a very bad feeling about this one and despite the urging of the ladies seated with me, I took a pass on volunteering. They insisted and I told them that I had to take photos and couldn’t take them from the stage. Anya offered to take photos for me and I began to squirm. I really really did NOT want to be on stage. I leaned over and as forcefully as I could I said, “I am not going on that stag, drop it.” I said it with as mad a face as I could, I tried to look irritated. I don’t know why, but I just had a bad feeling about it. Erica and Anya looked a bit shocked and decided to drop it. Just about that time, four other men were corralled onto the stage and I finally had my reprieve.
The four that were taken as “volunteers” were soon dressed in these silly little hats and ridiculous looking red bows. It was announced that they would be getting married to local Yao women. Thank God I was still in the audience. As you can tell by some of the men, they aren’t looking forward to the affair. The guy on the left looks like he’s on death row about to be marched to the gallows. Yes, the bride is covered until the ceremony; don’t want to have the groom run away if the bride who was selected by his parents is too ugly for his tastes. The crowd howled in laughter.
Part of the wedding ceremony is to make sticky rice. Some sweetened rice was dropped into a large stone bowl and two of the “groomsmen” smashed it down with bamboo polls. Later, they passed the rice around on a plate and we were able to taste it.
After the rice, the announcer explained the courtship and wedding process. If a man likes a woman, he kicks her foot with his. We assumed that this was done at a public function like someone else’s wedding or a festival or dance. If a woman likes a man, she pinches him on the butt. Of course, throughout the 20 minute long “wedding ceremony,” the Yao women pinched the men’s behinds unmercifully. We watched them wince in pain again and again. Yeah, I’m so glad I’m in the audience… The man must give his bride a gift and the “volunteers” were not spared. They actually had to fork over some cash and buy a gift for their faux bride; in the photo below, the “volunteer’ holds a bracelet that he just bought and will give to his bride.
The first of the four groomsmen just looked like he was so mad or embarrassed. He looked like he might just die of shame. The crowd was unmerciful and heckled him, laughed, and took his photo. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human in more discomfort in my life.
After the bride receives her gift, the man must prove his strength if he is to have her. To prove his worth, he must put his bride on his back and run her around the town and then bring her back to the stage. Again, the crowd howled with laughter and cheered for the “temporary” grooms.
After the faux marriage, the Yao women continued with their song and dance and then unwound their hair so that we could see how long it is. The women grow their hair from birth and then cut it only once in their life – when they are married, usually around 18 years old. Their cut hair is then braided and worn on top of their head until their new hair is long enough and then the old hair is entwined with the old. It was a very interesting process. Every married Yao woman has her old and new hair wound up on the top of her head.
Women who remain childless have to wear their hair in a different fashion and I thought this to be just terrible. It is one thing to not be able to have children and I felt that having to wear that distinction as a visible mark was sad. I felt bad for these women, especially in a society where child rearing is such a distinction of value for women.
After the show, I posed with the Yao performers just so that you could see their size. Yes, they do look bigger up on stage when photographed from below!
As the guests filed out of the hall, the Yao women unmercifully pinched the butt of every man coming out. It was a gauntlet of ass pinching! I scurried through as quickly as I could, got out of the crowd, and then climbed up on the wall to save my tail. From this vantage I was able to get a shot of Anya and Erica standing in front of the butt-pinching gauntlet.
As we walked back to our bus, Erica purchased some snacks for us. The little fruits were pre-cut by the vendor and each came with a little spoon. I shoveled out some of the seeds and pulp and ate them and was delightfully surprised at the wonderful flavor. I had never seen this fruit before but the taste had a vague familiarity to it. We tried to figure out the name of the fruit but it did not translate from Chinese. Later, on the bus, we offered some to a Dutch couple and the woman said, “Ah, passion fruit.” “That’s it!” we exclaimed, “That’s where we’ve tasted this before.” It was indeed passion fruit. Interestingly I’ve tasted it, but have never seen one in its natural skin.
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