京族哈節 Ha Festival of the Jing Nationality
Inscribed list: National List, First Batch
Inventory no.: X-7
Nominating unit(s): Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Dongxing City
哈節是京族 — 一個住在廣西省東興市海邊的少數民族的最重要節日之一。
The Ha festival is the most important festival to the Jing (or Gin) Nationality, a small ethnic group who are descendants of ethnic Vietnamese, who mainly live on three small islands off the coast of Dongxing, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region.
Relating to the origins of the story are popular legends about a hero, King Zhenhai, or King of the Sea. As the legend goes, there was a hungry Centipede Spirit living in the Bailong island (literal meaning “White Dragon island” in Chinese), who threatened to wreak havoc at the ocean and capsize boats and ships every time they passed by, if they didn’t sacrifice a person to it. King Zhenhai disguised himself as a poor beggar and carried a scalding pumpkin to board a ship. Once they reached the islands, he was pushed into the sea by the captain as a sacrifice. But then, he summoned the other sailors to bring out the scalding pumpkin and proceeded to feed it to the centipede spirit. The scalding pumpkin burned the spirit when consumed and the spirit was soon defeated, and its head, body and tail formed the three islands of the Jing nationality, and Zhenhai was later regarded as the hero. The temple of King Zhenhai was situated at the island where the spirit was defeated.
There is also another explanation of the origins of the Ha Festival, that it began as a festival to commemorate a God of Music, and the Festival was an opportunity to teach the people singing and dancing as a way of rebellion against the ruling Chen Dynasty. Soon, a pavilion was constructed for remembrance towards the god of music.
The Ha Festival lasts for a week. Different villages in their respective areas have different celebration dates. On the first day, the people carry umbrellas, flags and a throne to greet the God, and to invite them to the land and to the Pavilion. The Jing people proceed to worship and pray for good harvests to the deities, while offering wine and incense to them. Women of the Jing nationality sing in the festival, in a ritual called “Cheung Ha”, and “Ha” meaning singing or song in their language. As they sing, the main singer will stand at the center of the grass carpet, while musicians play the drums and other instruments. The lyrics of the songs sung in the festival are related to their religion, their history and culture, as well as their life. Other ladies also perform dance routines that are inspired by their daily lives, including a lantern dance, flower dances and bamboo dance. On the first day of the festival, women perform a “wine offering dance” to welcome the gods and show their appreciation for them. Later, the lantern dance is performed to entertain the gods, and a banquet set up in the pavilion, and all boys above a certain will be invited to attend, where food and entertainment activities are enjoyed.
On the final day, people will recite speech to escort the deities in their departure home, and the end of the festival is marked with the women performing the flower lantern dance and songs.
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