Long-Sleeved, Beautiful Dance: Batang Xuanzi

Culture

Xuanzi is called gaxie in Tibetan, and is also called xie, ye, baye etc. As the dance goes, the Tibetan fiddle...

Xuanzi is called “gaxie” in Tibetan, and is also called “xie,” “ye,” “baye” etc. As the dance goes, the Tibetan fiddle called Xuanhu (Xuanzi in Chinese) is played to it. The most famous Xuanzi in Garze is the one in Batang.

The original version of Batang Xuanzi Dance was created by the forefathers of Batang during their work in their fields. Legend has it that in the very ancient times, a group of Batang locals worked in their fields. After a long time of toiling work, one woman wanted to stretch her arms and legs, and she walked to the footpath to stretch her arms and lower legs. Then, a series of her graceful movements stunned the people in the fields, and then, the others came to the footpath to imitate what she did. Later, people also added other movements that they used at work to the dance, and also blended it with their rhythmic and musical sounds. Finally, Xuanzi was born.

Batang Xuanzi is often performed like this: One male fiddler or dozens of male fiddlers begin(s) the music, and other males and females follow them to form a circle, and then begin dancing and moving clockwise around the circle. The rhyme is quick and then becomes slow, and ends in the passionate atmosphere. Meanwhile, the dancers shout “xieya” together, which means well danced. After a while, when the fiddler(s) begin(s) a new piece of music, the dancers begin dancing again, and they will keep dancing this way until the dance routine is over.

“Lift up every three steps, and lean over every step” is the basic rule of the dance, which requires the dancers to shake their chest, shake their knees, and round, support, lift, and cover their long sleeves or use their sleeves in other ways. Then, the dance becomes the one it should be. During their festivals, at their camps, or when they take a break after a long time of work, they will gather in a clearing in the woods or on the embankment to dance, with no restriction on the number of dancers or their sex. The music is usually divided into three parts: prelude, interlude, and end. The music sounds soft but is with sturdiness. It is beautiful and can help express emotions, and its rhythm is suitable to dance to.

Batang Xuanzi had no musical instruments to play to the dance in the beginning. After the Qing official Zhao Erfeng came and implemented the central government (of the Qing Dynasty) policy “transforming chieftainships into district administration”, more and more businesspeople and travelers swarmed into this area, so that cultural communication became more frequent. Therefore, the dance borrowed Han people songs’ advantages and other kinds of songs’ advantages based on its own form, and then used Xuanhu as its musical instrument to play the music. Since then, the charms of it have begun spreading across Kham and even throughout the entire Tibetan area.

In May 2000, the former Ministry of Culture (Now it is the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China) officially granted Batang County the title “The Hometown of Chinese Folk Culture”. In June 2008, Batang Xuanzi was listed among the first Intangible Cultural Heritage of China. In recent years, it has appeared on both the domestic and international stages, and gradually become known by the public.

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