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Li ethnic group

The Li ethnic group lives mainly in and around the Li-Miao Autonomous Prefecture, South China's Hainan Province.

The Lis are always born with generous characters and are gifted in dancing and singing, and their "bamboo dance" is probably the most attractive and representative dancing performance of Hainan.

When children grow into their teens, they are expected to move from their parents' house to a long gui, transliteration of the local Li language, which means "a cottage without kitchen." Boys build their long guis by themselves and girls' long guis will be built by her parents. Usually these rooms are smaller than the ones they lived in before; they have very lower doors, without any partition wall. Children always live in the large "brothers' long gui" or "sisters' long gui" with one or two friends their own age of the same sex, but the smaller one could only admit one child living in. This is also the place where the youth find their lover.

Village Night Tour

The Li youth enjoy free love with a special courting called "village night tour" by local people.

In the evening, a boy usually gets fully dressed and comes to the cottage, long gui, of his sweetheart. Outside the cottage, the boy plays the mouth string organ and the nose flute. He also sings love songs. If the girl is interested and decides to accept him, she will reply to his songs and then let the boy come in. If the boy sings three songs and still gets no reply from the girl, that means he is not in her type and he has to leave.

After entering the cottage, the boy is not able to sit down until singing a seat-taking song and getting the girl's reply. Boys always declare their intention directly, coming for seeking a lover or marriage proposal. In the instance of entering a cottage with several girls, the boy will sing ballads and wait for the replying song from the girl interested in him. Then the cottage is full of sound of the mouth string organ, nose flute and love songs.

The boy will send gifts such as silver dollar, copper, needle, blouse, basket, and bamboo hat to his lover after their first night. Before getting married, they will date frequently. This relationship will last for several months and even two or three years. If finding not suitable to live together any longer, they will sing departure songs to each other and then continue their way on the "village night tour" to seek for their lovers separately.

China travel guide    Posted by China Culture on 10/11/2012

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