The Bullfighting Festival of Dong Ethnic Group
There are many Dong festivals, of which some are shared with the Han people: Spring Festival, the Mid-autumn Day, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Tomb-sweeping Day; some are of their own tradition: the Dong New Year, February 2nd, April 8th, June 6th, Bullfight Festival, etc.
Bullfight is one of the favorite activity of The Dong people, popular in Liping, Rongjiang, Congjiang and Jinping, etc. Every village raises “fighting bulls” (all water buffaloes, called “buffalo king”) exclusively for the use of bullfight. The pen of “bull king” is mostly built near the drum-tower, clean and ventilated, known as “the palace of the bull”. The bull king does not do farm work. Certain persons are especially assigned to taking care of it – mowing, carrying water and mixing the feeding stuff. It is also often provided with lard, honey, rice wine, etc. A Bull king is usually big and strong, with bulky and sharp horns, and every bull owns a sound name, such as “fierce tiger king”, “thunderbolt king”, “spring thunder king”, etc.
The Bullfight Festival is on the 18th of both lunar February and August every year. Before that day, young people, playing Lusheng, go to another village to “send the invitation” for a bullfight. After “sending the invitation”, they come back to the “palace of the bull” and play Lusheng, and worship the bull respectfully for 3 days, as is called “foster the spirit” of the bull. The bullfight field is usually located in a valley or a plain surrounded by hills, containing more than 10 thousand people. Sometimes the fight takes place in a special “bullfight pool”. On the festival, thousands of people gather together around the field, which is busily crowded with colorful flying flags and sound of drums and gongs.
Just before the fight, the participant bulls go to “tread the field”, accompanied by laughters and music. A youth walk proudly at the front, holding a “horse board” (an over 60 square centimetre wooden board). After him are the musical team and the guardian team of wooden “weapons”. The “bull king” is covered with bright iron sheath on the horns, and crimson satin on the head; carries a bull-king tower – “two dragons running for a precious stone”, 4 flags and 2 very long pheasant tail feathers on the tower, make the bull look like an ancient general, holy and inviolable. A bunch of bells hang around its neck, tinkling all the time. When the “treading field” is finished, the bulls withdraw. With 3 shots of iron cannon and music from Lusheng and drums, the bullfight commences. When the bull keepers throw burning fires in front of the “bull kings”, and let go the halters in their hands, the two bulls begin to fight. The audiences cry loudly, cheering for them. If to the appointed time no bull has been defeated, the keepers would hitch their legs and draw them apart. Then it is a draw. This activity is not for victory, but for blessing good weather in the coming year, the health of the people, and multiple reproductions of the cattle.