Theater festival in Daliangshan promotes ethnic Yi culture
Shining a spotlight on tradition
Published: Nov 17, 2022 08:49 PM
Ethnic Yi people perform the song collection

Young ethnic Yi people recite the poem "Leopard."  Photo: Courtesy of the Daliangshan International Theatre Festival

Ethnic Yi people perform the song collection

Ethnic Yi people perform the song collection "Going to the Market." Photos: Courtesy of the Daliangshan International Theatre Festival

Featuring elements such as clothing with accentuated shoulder pads, sheepskin drums, fire worship, and yueqin (a moon-shaped string instrument), an international theater festival that originated from deep in the mountains of Southwest China hopes to introduce China's ethnic groups to the world. 

After years of obstacles created by the pandemic pushed it online, the Daliangshan International Theatre Festival returned to an in-person event on November 11. With vigorous mountains as the theater's background and a steep valley as seats for the audience, the theater festival aims to shine a light on 14 ethnic groups in Southwest China's Sichuan Province through drama performances aimed at audiences from home and abroad. 

The mountainous Daliangshan region is home to dozens of ethnic groups. The Daliangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in particular is a core region for the Yi ethnic group. Over 2,000 years ago, this region gave birth to one of the most ancient calendars in China, the Yi ethnic group's traditional 10-month solar calendar. 

The 2022 festival was unveiled with a recitation of Yi poet Jidimajia's  symphonic poem "A Welcome Speech to the World." 

In the center of a round wooden stage in the valley, a man dressed in traditional Yi clothing and holding a lamp, walked out of doorway shaped like the Yi totem that represents life and birth and began reciting the poem. The music from a symphony orchestra combined with the original poem reverberated throughout the valley in a true testament to the ethnic group's originality.

In addition, modern drama and foreign plays will also be displayed during the festival, including a Chinese version of the Italian opera Turandot and a production of Hamlet by the Xi'an Theater, showing a fusion of ancient and modern art.

"The theater festival here has made the place more alive. I hope the place can become the next international theater just like the Festival d'Avignon," said Flora Boillot from the Consulate General of the Republic of France in Chengdu, Sichuan.

In 2019, to boost the cultural and creative industry in Daliangshan, the local government invited 25 well-known artists from around the world to found the theater festival. 

Taking advantage of the region's natural geography, the Daliangshan International Theater Festival was launched four years ago. 

"In the past few years, great changes that have taken place in Daliangshan have also brought inexhaustible inspiration to artists. From operas that tell the story of Daliangshan's poverty alleviation to dramas that reflect the original ecological environment of the ethnic Yi people, artists have burst into vigorous creativity. Holding a theater festival here has given Daliangshan a chance to see the world, while attracting the world's attention here," a representative from the Daliangshan Culture and Tourism Investment Group said. 

The dramas and shows at the festival have showcased the central government's poverty alleviation efforts. Hear Suoma, a drama inspired by the people living in the region's "cliff village" and how a government campaign helped lift them out of poverty, is being staged at the festival to help more people to learn about the touching stories that have taken place in the region.