The Symbol of the Wa ethnic village – wooden drum
Wooden drum, called “Keluoke” in Wa language, is a traditional sacrifice offering tool, musical instrument and alarm reporting tool. Trunk of Schima wallichii,peach tree or Mali tree is raw materials for the drum which is hollowed out according to specified shapes. The sizes of different drums are varied, and the drum is usually 2 meters long with a diameter of between 0.5 and 1 meter. There are two kinds of drums: male drum and female drum. The syllable of male drum is on the low side and the tone color of it is loud and jarring. The syllable of female drum is a little bit higher, and the tone color is clear and melodious. They are generally put together in the wooden drum house in the village.
The wooden drum house is an important and symbolic structure in the Wa village. There are one or several wooden houses in every village. It is a small shed constructed with six poles, three crossbeams and bamboo strips or cogon grass which has no wall. The area of the drum house is not big, and the structure is simple, but because it’s the place for leaving wooden drum, it’s very holy and it possesses the function and status of temples of other nationalities.
The wooden drum is a symbol of the Was, and is a holy object worshipped by them. They think that the wooden drum is “a tool reaching gods” and “a drum reaching heaven”, and “life relies on water, and proper relies on wooden drum”. So it can’t be touched in normal times, and people can beat it only in offering sacrifice, reporting an alarm and in great collective activities such as festivals and happy occasions.
Because of the sacred status and function of the wooden drum, “pulling wooden drum” becomes a very grand and magnificent religious sacrifice offering activity.
The so-called “pulling wooden drum” is an activity that people cut wood in forest, pull it into village and make a drum with it to replace the old drum. It is usually held in the eleventh lunar month (the first month in Wa calendar). When the time comes, firstly the time of pulling wooden drum and the main sacrifice offerer (who bear the cost of the activity and the cattle) are decided in the meeting of leaders of the village, several buffaloes for butchering, a cattle for telling fortunes by its liver, watery wine and food are prepared. At the day of pulling wooden drum, they butcher cattle as sacrifice to gods at daytime, and adult men go up mountain to cut tree at night that has been chosen beforehand to prepare materials for making drum. Early in the morning of the next day, people of the whole village, men and women, young and old (some women are not allowed to join in the activity) all wear festival rich dress and come to pull drum. They sing while dance, and pull the drum into village with rope. But the drum can’t enter the village at the same day. It should be put out of village until a lucky day is chosen after offering chicken as sacrifice.
At the day when the new drum enters village, people of the whole village are in great rejoicing. People from nearby villages also beat gongs and drums to come to congratulate them. They sing while dance, butcher cattle and pigs, and drink wine for entertainment.
It needs about over 20 days to make a new drum. At the day when the wood is hollowed all out, they should beat it loudly to announce the good news to people of the village, and they hold a rite to lay the new drum. At that night, all people of the village gather around the drum house and dance and sing happily again to celebrate the success of making a new drum. The whole sacrifice offering activity of “pulling wooden drum” is declared finished until then.
It is said that the Was pull wooden drum to offer sacrifice to god “Mowei”. The Was have the idea that “Mowei” is an incarnation of human ancestors who lives in Heaven in normal times, and shows no interest in events of the human world. Only if he hears sound of wooden drum, will he come to the human world to solve trouble for human beings and to enjoy happiness with them.