Danba Jiarong: The Old and Mysterious Girls’ Adulthood Ceremony

Culturefrom:Garze news network

Garze Prefectures Danba County is reputed as the Utopia hidden in the remote area of the Hengduan Mountain...

Garze Prefecture’s Danba County is reputed as the Utopia hidden in the remote area of the Hengduan Mountains, and is the Tibetan cultural center of the Jiarong People. The old and mysterious girls’ adulthood ceremony poses as one of their many stylish cultures.

Danba ladies’ adulthood ceremony has a long history and is also a traditional event in which beauties are selected and compete with each other. Each adulthood ceremony is usually held by one village, and the local living Buddha or an auspicious old man chooses an auspicious day or some time when they don’t have to work in their farms to hold this event. The adulthood ceremony is called “Jisa”, which means “dressed in new clothes”. The local Chinese language addresses it as “Dai Jiao Jiao”, which means the girl who participates in the ceremony should style their hair bun in the shape of an ox horn, which looks cute indeed. Girls who are aged 16 and have already experienced the adulthood ceremony can love and marry. Therefore, the adulthood ceremony is an event for any Jirong girl in her whole life. The Jirong People take their children’s education quite seriously, and women are the soul of the tribe. The adulthood ceremony of the girls fully explains the folk custom that the Jirong People care about their young and respect women. This has a strong regional character, showing an obvious individuality and the genes of a matriarchal society.

At the ceremony, these 16-year-old girls dress up gracefully, looking radiant, and each of their moves draws the attention of the audience. Their hair bun is representation that they are already adults: their fringe begins from the middle of their forehead, with three little braids on each side. The rest of the hair is braided into many cute smaller plaits, which drape onto a 50-centimeter-long and 2-centimeter-wide hairpin going through each girl’s hair. Seeing it from afar, you may find that the hairpin is like a shoulder pole at the back of their head. This hair bun is named “Dai Jiao Jiao”. The headwear, from the forehead to the back of the head, is tightly twined by a thick plait, and is lined with gold and silver headbands, on which are set with corals, turquoises, Nine-Eyed Beads (jiu yan tian zhu) and so on. And the forehead is decorated with a flat headwear knitted with red silk threads or red woollen threads, and little corals and pearls and other precious stones are dotted on the headwear.

After coiling their hair on the head, wearing their headwear, and bearing colorful khatas on their shoulders and back, these participants are led by the village’s respected old woman to the site of the ceremony. As the trumpets sound, the smoke gradually rises out of the burning pile of cypress twigs, and the solemn living Buddha begins to host the ceremony of murmuring Buddhist sutras and asking for blessing. Then after, respected seniors will come out to send blessing tea to these girls, and these girls’ parents begin offering khatas to their daughters. After the series of ceremonies ends, people of all ages will come to the center of the site to sing and dance. The dance they perform is the auspicious Guozhuang Dance.

Today, as society develops, the traditional concept is gradually changing, and people gradually don’t think holding the “adulthood ceremony” is something they must do. To protect and inherit this old Tibetan tradition of the Jiarong People, Danba’s girls’ adulthood ceremony was listed among the intangible cultural heritages of Sichuan Province. (Author: Tang Baoan)

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