ulturalResources
Dongba Dance and the Dance Notation

Dongba culture is an integrated culture system, which covers the cultures of a nationality for a certain stage.
In term of host family hosting the rite, Dongba people performed rites, is for bagging and driving ghosts, praying blesses and avoiding disasters, and even for removing panic inside their heart, and to strengthen the psychological recovery effect. While in the term of onlookers observing fete, the rite is a joyful moment with heavy labors forgotten; they enjoyed the romance of myth and poetry; they enjoyed the colorfulness of paintings and sculptures; they enjoyed the happiness lead by music, song and dance. They can even participate in it to have fun. Thus, the site for religious fete at that time was actually a place of cultural activity.
Dongba dance is composed of various types and it is performed depending on sequence of the rites. Once a rite was to be performed, deities should be invited to the site initially, and then the chief flamen would chant Yingshengjing (a scripture). After that, soft, elegant, light and joyful dances for pleasing deities, like flower dance, lantern dance, pavane and lophura nycthemera dance and so on were performed on the scene, accompanied by slow drum rhythm, giving people a feeling of comfortableness and tranquility. Ending of Welcome the God chanting indicated that the God had already taken his seat at the ceremony and he could be hospitably treated then. Afterwards, hoarse voice made by ox horn resounded through the valley. The informed elderly would call back children by saying “No running about, little kids. Ghost inviting is starting!” After the ghosts were seated, people still treated them to fruits and foods with courtesy. Then, the chief flamen would highly chant the Yingshengjing, which meant that the powers of different Gods would be added to Dongba people, by which, Dongba people would show their powers obtained to ghosts in pursuit of quelling the evil influence of ghosts by the integrity of Gods. At this moment, roc dance, dance of Youma Mars, yak dance, red tiger and green dragon dance, wand dance, eagle claw dance, broadsword dance and torch dance and so on were performed on the scene. The power of Gods not only enabled the Dongba people to feel that their powers were strengthened, but also attracted onlookers gathering there. Hence, integrity was displayed sufficiently.
On processing of expelling and killing ghosts, Dongba people would brandish their knives directly into the ghost cave on hearing the order from the chief flamen. At first, they would encounter with stubborn resist from ghosts, and the ghosts played by people would make threatening gestures. Attacked by powerful offensive from the allied Gods played by people, all ghosts would be defeated and flee. At this time, the surrounding groups, burned with rage, would rush forward and trod down the cave of ghosts.
A revelry which was filled with delight of life and cultural atmosphere was ended in the joyful voices. In 1983, Dai Ailian, a famous dancer in China, led the experts and scholars from editorial department of Collection of Folk Dances of Chinese Nationalitys and the editorial department of Dance as Sciences to Lijiang, to perform comparative study on Dongba Dance Notation and Dongba dance, the conclusion of which went “Dongba Dance Notation is the most ancient and systematic dance notation discovered so far.” (Hu Ke, Summary Record of Examination on Gods Dance Performed by Naxi Nationalitys) and “Dongba Dance Notation is of historical value; it is scientific and it is our national treasure.” (Address from Dai Ailian on Dongba Daba forum at Lijing). With plot, figures, suspense, climax, dialogue songs and dances, tussle and chase, Dongba dance for fete possesses all elements for drama and song and dance, is the primary form for drama as well as the living fossil for searching human’s theatre history.
Imitating animals and works, such as white horse dance, white sheep dance, and white deer dance, bow and arrow dance and so on, Dongba dance more reflected the earlier life-style (like hunting and nomadism) of ancient Naxi people. Why Dongba dance is able to reserve the ancient dancing gestures completely? That should be attributed to extraordinary intelligence of ancient Naxi people. There are numerous nationalities that are good at dancing around the world, but how many nationalities could think of recording dancing gestures by characters? Ancient Naxi people had left one after another literature classics recording the elegant dancing gestures for their descendants—Dance Notation was generally described like this, “when white yak (the mount of God) dance was to be performed, one should take two steps towards anticlockwise direction, and stamp foot for four times towards four directions (the front, back, left and right), and then turn around on the basic and original position by oneself, and then turn around on original position towards clockwise direction. When golden pavane dance one was to be performed, one should forwards take seven steps, and then anticlockwise turn a circle on original position by oneself, and then clockwise turn a circle on original position by oneself…”.
Based on this, people can remember the dancing gestures immediately, which plays an important role in learning and regulating of Dongba dance. More importantly, with such notation, dancing gestures can be spread and maintained beyond space-time and distance. Such kinds of dance notations are found in ancient books of Dunhuang, Deshou Palace, and Egypt. Unfortunately, all of them are merely some broken pieces.
Until the 11th century, a Spanish dancer named Laban invented a method for recording of dance. At present, dance field around the world basically follows this set of “Laban dance notation”. While Dongba dance notation of Naxi Nationality is the most early and complete dance notation around the world. Dongba culture is an integrated culture system, which covers the culture of a nationality for a certain stage.
In term of host family hosting the rite, Dongba people performed rites, is for bagging and driving ghosts, praying blesses and avoiding disasters, and even for removing panic inside their heart, and to strengthen the psychological recovery effect. While in the term of onlookers observing fete, the rite is a joyful moment with heavy labors forgotten; they enjoyed the romance of myth and poetry; they enjoyed the colorfulness of paintings and sculptures; they enjoyed the happiness lead by music, song and dance. They can even participate in it to have fun. Thus, the site for religious fete at that time was actually a place of cultural activity.
Dongba dance is composed of various types and it is performed depending on sequence of the rites. Once a rite was to be performed, deities should be invited to the site initially, and then the chief flamen would chant Yingshengjing (a scripture). After that, soft, elegant, light and joyful dances for pleasing deities, like flower dance, lantern dance, pavane and lophura nycthemera dance and so on were performed on the scene, accompanied by slow drum rhythm, giving people a feeling of comfortableness and tranquility. Ending of Welcome the God chanting indicated that the God had already taken his seat at the ceremony and he could be hospitably treated then. Afterwards, hoarse voice made by ox horn resounded through the valley. The informed elderly would call back children by saying “No running about, little kids. Ghost inviting is starting!” After the ghosts were seated, people still treated them to fruits and foods with courtesy. Then, the chief flamen would highly chant the Yingshengjing, which meant that the powers of different Gods would be added to Dongba people, by which, Dongba people would show their powers obtained to ghosts in pursuit of quelling the evil influence of ghosts by the integrity of Gods. At this moment, roc dance, dance of Youma Mars, yak dance, red tiger and green dragon dance, wand dance, eagle claw dance, broadsword dance and torch dance and so on were performed on the scene. The power of Gods not only enabled the Dongba people to feel that their powers were strengthened, but also attracted onlookers gathering there. Hence, integrity was displayed sufficiently.
On processing of expelling and killing ghosts, Dongba people would brandish their knives directly into the ghost cave on hearing the order from the chief flamen. At first, they would encounter with stubborn resist from ghosts, and the ghosts played by people would make threatening gestures. Attacked by powerful offensive from the allied Gods played by people, all ghosts would be defeated and flee. At this time, the surrounding groups, burned with rage, would rush forward and trod down the cave of ghosts.
A revelry which was filled with delight of life and cultural atmosphere was ended in the joyful voices. In 1983, Dai Ailian, a famous dancer in China, led the experts and scholars from editorial department of Collection of Folk Dances of Chinese Nationalitys and the editorial department of Dance as Sciences to Lijiang, to perform comparative study on Dongba Dance Notation and Dongba dance, the conclusion of which went “Dongba Dance Notation is the most ancient and systematic dance notation discovered so far.” (Hu Ke, Summary Record of Examination on Gods Dance Performed by Naxi Nationalitys) and “Dongba Dance Notation is of historical value; it is scientific and it is our national treasure.” (Address from Dai Ailian on Dongba Daba forum at Lijing). With plot, figures, suspense, climax, dialogue songs and dances, tussle and chase, Dongba dance for fete possesses all elements for drama and song and dance, is the primary form for drama as well as the living fossil for searching human’s theatre history.
Imitating animals and works, such as white horse dance, white sheep dance, and white deer dance, bow and arrow dance and so on, Dongba dance more reflected the earlier life-style (like hunting and nomadism) of ancient Naxi people. Why Dongba dance is able to reserve the ancient dancing gestures completely? That should be attributed to extraordinary intelligence of ancient Naxi people. There are numerous nationalities that are good at dancing around the world, but how many nationalities could think of recording dancing gestures by characters? Ancient Naxi people had left one after another literature classics recording the elegant dancing gestures for their descendants—Dance Notation was generally described like this, “when white yak (the mount of God) dance was to be performed, one should take two steps towards anticlockwise direction, and stamp foot for four times towards four directions (the front, back, left and right), and then turn around on the basic and original position by oneself, and then turn around on original position towards clockwise direction. When golden pavane dance one was to be performed, one should forwards take seven steps, and then anticlockwise turn a circle on original position by oneself, and then clockwise turn a circle on original position by oneself…”.
Based on this, people can remember the dancing gestures immediately, which plays an important role in learning and regulating of Dongba dance. More importantly, with such notation, dancing gestures can be spread and maintained beyond space-time and distance. Such kinds of dance notations are found in ancient books of Dunhuang, Deshou Palace and Egypt. Unfortunately, all of them are merely some broken pieces.
Until the 11th century, a Spanish dancer named Laban invented a method for recording of dance. At present, dance field around the world basically follows this set of “Laban dance notation”. While Dongba dance notation of Naxi Nationality is the most early and complete dance notation around the world
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