Grand song of the Dong ethnic group
Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Grand song of the Dong ethnic group
A popular saying among the Dong people in Guizhou Province in southern China has it that ‘rice nourishes the body and songs nourish the soul’. Their tradition of passing on culture and knowledge in music is exemplified in the Grand Song of the Dong ethnic group, multi-part singing performed without instrumental accompaniment or a leader. The repertoire includes a range of genres such as ballads, children’s songs, songs of greeting and imitative songs that test performers’ virtuosity at mimicking the sounds of animals. Taught by masters to choirs of disciples, Grand Songs are performed formally in the drum-tower, the landmark venue for rituals, entertainment and meetings in a Dong village, or more spontaneously in homes or public places. They constitute a Dong encyclopaedia, narrating the people’s history, extolling their belief in the unity of humans and nature, preserving scientific knowledge, expressing feelings of romantic love, and promoting moral values such as respect for one’s elders and neighbours. Grand Song is performed widely today, with each village boasting various choirs divided by age and sometimes gender. In addition to disseminating their lifestyle and wisdom, it remains a crucial symbol of Dong ethnic identity and cultural heritage.
Decision 4.COM 13.15
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: The Grand song of the Dong ethnic group in China is an a capella song tradition that brings together children, women and men, who consider it a symbol of their identity and continuity;
- R.2: Inscription of the element on the Representative List would help ensure the visibility of intangible cultural heritage and encourage cultural diversity, while promoting aesthetic and social values of friendship and peace;
- R.3: The nomination proposes important safeguarding measures to ensure the viability of the element to which the State, the communities and civil society are committed, notably through the establishment of choirs, identification of outstanding singers, and sociological and anthropological research;
- R.4: The element has been nominated through a process that has involved at all stages the communities, universities, research centres and relevant organizations, while practitioners and community representatives have signed letters of approval testifying to their free, prior and informed consent;
- R.5: The element is inscribed on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage administered by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture.
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