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Village Community and Public Architecture: wagx Concept and Drum Tower among Dong (Kam) People of Sanjiang in Guangxi Province, China
(1) The purpose of this study
It is in 1985 when many Chinese ethnologists who study Dong(Kam) people began to pay great attention to gulou. Gulou are built in Dong villages, used as assembly halls in main, because most of them have figures like lou (tower) and hung gu (wooden drum with skin of cow) in the past (a few still hang), so they are called gulou (drum tower) in Chinese society. In 1985, an exhibition on architecture and custom of Dong people of Guizhou Province was held by Guizhou Province in Beijing. The main aim of this exhibition is, making use of drum towers and bridges with roof built by Dong people of Guizhou, to change the prejudice towards Guizhou Province, which spread widely among Chinese society, that Guizhou is barren culturally as well as geographically, and to propagandise the value of its minority culture towards Chinese society [Kaneshige 1998:145]. In the book published for the exhibition, Wu Zhengguang, an officer of the cultural publishing Agency of Guizhou, presented a catch term; Gulou Wenhua (drum tower culture), to appeal the value of the drum tower as cultural properties [Wu Zhengguang 1985:1-8]. After this appeal, many Chinese scholars have taken over both the term and a view point that drum tower is the most important and representative cultural element of Dong culture. Especially Wang Shengxian, an ethnologist from the Dong of Guizhou Province, presents that drum towers are a symbol of the Dong nationality, marker of Dong village and most represent Dong culture [Wang 1987:45-46;1989:1-5]. This kind of discourse, which I call drum tower culture doctrine, has almost taken root among many Chinese ethnologists already.(1) In this way, since1985 drum tower has been given maximum estimation by Chinese officers and scholars .
However, it is the viewpoint of the local people toward drum towers that is very important to study. Many Chinese scholars emphasize that local people regard drum towers as favorable beings which give the local people public interests. The most typical one is that because of its similarity to a big cryptomeria in figure local people regard a drum tower as a being protects their village just as a big cryptomeria shields them from the sun and rain [Wu Zhengguang 1985:1-3；Yang Guoren1985:81-82；Pu Hong1989:127；Yang Xiulu 1989:48-55]. Beside this, other scholars argue that drum tower is thought by local people as a nest of fish in paddy field or fish pond where fish can get together, because the figure of which is similar to that of drum tower[Pan1986:19；Yu 1989：47; Long 1990:111]. As a whole, other studies emphasize favorable images by local people toward drum towers.
However, I assert that it is not enough to understand the view of local people toward drum towers like this. The purpose of this paper is, based on my fieldwork data, to suggest that local people regard drum towers as the beings which sometimes may do them harm, even kill some of them in the worst case, and that this view relates closely to their notion of wagx(2). I should point out that, as I shall mention in detail later, drum tower is one of the most important subjects to be studied when we want to understand the sense of village community of Dong people of southern dialect area.
(2) Survey of Dong people
Dong people is an ethnic group belonging to the larger Tai family ranging from Continental Southeast Asia to Southwest China. They have 2.5 million population(1990) and inhabit the northeastern-most edge among the larger Tai family, that is to say, around the border area of Guizhou province (1.4 million), Hunan province (0.75 million) and Guangxi Zhuang nationality Autonomous Region (0.29 million). They call themselves Gaeml or Jaeml. Because the area Dong people inhabit is close to the Han area, it is said that they are one of the peoples influenced by Han culture relatively more deeply than other ethnic groups of the larger Tai family.
Dong language is divided into northern dialect and southern dialect(3). It is said that there are also many differences culturally between northern and southern dialect areas. For example, in southern dialect area, there are many public buildings such as gulou, bridges with roof called fengyuqiao in Chinese, and stages of Dong opera, however there are very few of them in northern dialect area [Deng 1986; Qin 1991]. As for distribution of drum tower and bridge with roof in southern dialect area, see table 1.
Table 1：distribution of drum tower and bridge with roof in southern dialect area
drum tower bridge with roof source
Liping(Guizhou) 231 a little over 5 #1
Congjiang (Guizhou) 125 a little over 30 #2
Sanjiang(Guangxi) 158 108 #3
Longsheng(Guangxi) 75 36 #4
Tongdao(Hunan) about 250 together #5
Rongjiang(Guizhou) unknown(4) #6
#1 [Guizhousheng Liping xianzhi biansan weiyuanhui(eds.) 1989:144]
#2 [Guizhousheng Congjiang xianzhi biansan weiyuanhui(eds.) 1991:42-43]
#3 [Sanjiang Dongzu zizhixianzhi biansan weiyuanhui(eds.) 1992:704]
#4 [Longsheng gezu zizhixianzhi biansan weiyuanhui(eds.) 1992:69]
#5 personal information from Zhang Zu'ai, a curator in department of archeology,
Huaihua museum, Hunan Province（in August,1991）
(3) Survey of the field and drum towers
From 1994 to 1996, I conducted two years' fieldwork at a natural village (I call this village K2 in this paper) in northern part of Sanjiang Dong Nationality Autonomous County, which belongs to the southern dialect area and is famous for its numerous Dong's public architecture, in northern Guangxi. K2 and three other natural villages (K1,K3 and K4), where I did supplementary fieldwork, constituting one administrative village (K), which has 432 households, 2060 population, and almost 100% of the population are Dong people.
Each of the four natural villages is composed of some unilineal descent groups based on patrilineal descent (See table2). Each of the three main descent groups with the same surname, Y, S and W is divided into two groups which moved to K village from different places. Except between Y(a) and Y(b), it is prohibited to marry between the groups with the same surname. Each village has many wives married in from other villages as well as from its own village.
It is said that because of population growth K1 and K2 were separated from one village in the past. And in 1970s some people moved from K1 and K2 to another place called Yaku 200-300m away from K1 and K2, nowadays Yaku has more than 20 households. But the membership of the dwellers of Yaku still belongs to their mother villages. K3 is located on the other side of a river. There is a 60m length fengyuqiao (K bridge) across the river. K4 is about 40 minutes walk away from the three villages.
Table2 : number of households of K village (in round numbers)
K1 K2 K3 K4
Y(a) 100 5
Y(b) 20 40 20 40
S(a) 2 80
W(b) 22 10
others 1 9 1
In K village and in its neighborhood, drum towers are called by local people in two kinds of words in Dong language; liangc tingc and louc. The word liangc tingc is used normally, under the specific situation I will mention later, they are called louc.
K1, K2 and K3 have 6 drum towers in all. Both K1 and K2 were burnt down at the end of the Qing dynasty, afterward K1 drum tower(5 stories, 10.6m high) was rebuilt in 1908, and K2 drum tower (5 stories, 10.1m high) is said to have been rebuilt almost at the same time. During Republican era, a new drum tower (middle drum tower, 1 story ,5.5m high) which was expected to be convenient for the elderly living in the middle area between K1 and K2, was built. But nobody gathers at this drum tower now. Each of the three are located inside the settlement.
Because of the inconvenience of elderly men of Yaku to go far to K1 or K2 drum tower, the dwellers of Yaku started to build a new drum tower outside their settlement (Yaku drum tower, 5 stories, height unmeasured) in 1994 and accomplished in 1996. Because this village has only a little over 20 households, and some go to drum towers of their mother village to gather, few people go to Yaku drum tower .
K3 has two drum towers. The old one (K3 drum tower,7 stories, 12.2m high) is located at the middle of K3 settlement. The exact year of its construction is vague, but it is suggested to have been during Qing dynasty. And the new one (K3 new drum tower, 5 stories, height unmeasured), which is at the side of a small stream at the edge of the settlement, was started to be built in 1992 and completed in 1993. The aim of the building of the new one is to change fengshui (5) of K3 for the better.
Among these six drum towers, K1, K2 and K3 drum towers are main ones. Each of K1 and K3 drum tower has both a stage of Dong opera which faces towards the drum tower and a square (called sagx in Dong language) in front of the stage, whereas K2 drum tower only has a square.
During my fieldwork at K village, many villagers, both male and female, met at the square when Dong opera was played on the stage. Sometimes meetings for the whole village were held at the square. And I saw men play the bamboo instrument called lusheng at the square. In this way the square is an important place of amusement and meeting for the local people.
Generally, most of the members who come to drum tower daily are the retired elderly (male) who have enough free time. And some of the young men who dislike work also come to drum tower frequently. On rainy days, as it is hard to go to field, the men who seldom come also come to join. Children, both male and female, also come in to play when they have free time. Although there is no taboo that prohibits women from coming into drum tower, but women who are above the age of junior high school students seldom come in to join (except for K3 new drum tower) (6). When I asked some women about the reason, they answered that drum tower is not the place for women to gather.
In drum tower, people usually play Chinese card games and chat. In summer some take midday naps. It is Chinese new year season when largest number of people come to drum tower and become most lively. At that time some chat or listen to folk tales while warming themselves at the fire, while others are enthusiastic about playing Chinese card games. At seasonal festivals the elderly (male) hold banquets at drum towers. In addition they sometimes hold meetings at drum towers, while official administrative village meetings are held at the administrative village office, never at drum towers.
Before the liberation the function of drum tower and the square as meeting and amusement place was very important, as well as after the liberation. According to the description of the Gazette of Sanjiang County (Sangjiangxianzhi), in Sanjiang, in Republican era, drum towers were used as village meeting halls, and the squares were as the amusement place where local people gathered at their leisure and seasonal festivals. Drum towers hung drums, which were beaten to give villagers notice of the meetings. At the squares, local people, both men and women, sing songs hand in hand with each other. At the mutual visiting activity in groups between two villages called weex yeek, the local people play the bamboo instrument called lusheng and sing songs and attend to the guests at the square and inside drum tower.[Jiang Yusheng (ed.)1946 :vol.2].
However, the four drum towers (K1, K2, K3 and middle drum tower) had no drums in Republican era as well as at present. Even a man born in 1910 has not seen drums with the four drum towers. Except for the drum, the description about the drum tower and the square above is not different from the memories of the elderly whom I interviewed in K village.
Drum Tower and wagx
In K village and its neighborhood, I have not heard the figurative expression that drum tower is like a cryptomeria or a nest of fish in paddy field or fish pond. How do the local people whom I interviewed view their drum towers? I have understood through my fieldwork that drum towers are not always favorable beings for the local people, and that even these drum towers sometimes may do harm to them.
I introduce some examples. At first, according to the local people, it is thought that there are some places harmful to inhabit. The places are right under drum towers. Because each of the K1, K2 and K3 drum tower is located on a slope, the ground at the back of drum tower is lower than the front. W.M.X. (villager of K2, male, born in 1910) told me as follows:
It is not good to build house right under drum tower. If you do so, then the drum tower gives pressure to you, you should become without fortune, and can't flourish. In the past, one family inhabited right under K1 drum tower, so they died out. Another family inhabited right under K2 drum tower, after that because the family became without fortune, so they moved to mountain area. Jongl xangl (Dong language) gave pressure to the family, then they became without fortune. No one wants to inhabit right under the drum towers.
And another woman, S.S.N.(K2, female, 1946) told me as follows;
It is not good to build house right under drum tower. If oblique under drum tower, it's no problem, but right under drum tower, it's no good. The reason is that drum tower is wagx (Dong language). Drum tower presses over the dwellers who inhabited right under the drum tower. The two families had inhabited right under K1 and K2 drum tower, afterward they moved to other places.
Another old man, W.M.H. (K2, male, 1921), also told me a similar story. He explained the reason of the misfortunes of the families who inhabited right under drum tower as follows;
Because wagx is very high, wagx presses the dwellers, it is difficult for the dwellers to raise their heads.
Here, it is important that the word wagx the local people told me is used as another word for drum tower.
To confirm such discourse, I went to examine the location of houses under the drum towers of K1, K2 and K3 with my own eyes. There were, to be sure, no houses right under K1and K3 drum tower. However, I found one house was under K2 drum tower, afterward I was told that the family, avoiding right under K2 drum tower, inhabited oblique under the drum tower. As mentioned above, drum towers are thought to give harmful influence to the dwellers when they inhabit right under them. So actually no family inhabits at the place.
There are other places which are thought by some to be harmful places to live. Some believe that the corner of the roof of drum towers also give bad influence to the dweller. Y.Y.M.(K3, male, 1920s), a specialist of geomancy, argues;
When house meets at right angles to one of the extended diagonal line of drum tower's roof, the dwellers of the house should decline, get sick and meet with misfortune. Power of wagx xangh( Dong language) is too big for you to receive. The power must be interrupted.
As mentioned above, K3 new drum tower was completed in 1993. The construction of the new drum tower had a harmful influence on the house which is located on one of the extended diagonal line of the drum tower's square roof. Because the circumstance of the house had changed badly, then Y.Y.M. put two wooden plates at the very point on the wall outside of the house to avoid the harmful influence from the corner of the drum tower's square roof. One plate is written Taishan shi gan dang, the other namo'emituofo ZhongKui dang loujiao. The former means that Mt. Taishan shelters from bad influences, the latter means that I devote myself to Amitabha!(7), ZhongKui, who is famous for his ability to beat the evil back, shelters from (the bad influence of ) the corner of the roof of the drum tower. I found another similar example at the house beside K2 drum tower. The house meets at one of the extended diagonal line of K2 drum tower's square roof (but it is not right angle), a wooden plate written fengxiong huaji is put at the point on the wall of the house. Fengxiong huaji means when one meets bad luck, it makes this bad luck change into good luck. The dweller of the house S.S.Q.(K2, male, 1961) is also a specialist of geomancy, and he judged for himself. But this kind of device is not done to the other four drum towers in the three villages.
As mentioned above, it is thought that Drum towers represent jongl xangl, wagx or wagx xangh, so that these drum towers give harmful influence to private house according to circumstances. The meanings of these three words are almost the same, and the word wagx is used most frequently among the three, so in this paper I use wagx from here on (I mention the meaning of wagx later).
Public Architecture and wagx
This kind of thought is not limited to drum tower. Other studies have common tendency to neglect to consider drum tower from the view of comparison with other public buildings. However, it is very important to consider drum tower relatively in relation to other public buildings. In this chapter, I mention that wagx concept is tightly concerned not only with drum tower but also with other public buildings.
As a beginning I would like to examine bridges. According to S.S.N.(K2,female, 1946);
It is not good to live at either foot of K bridge. The reason is that wagx is very strong.
It is not good for you to live at the foot of K bridge. If so, you can't flourish. The bridge is tremendously big, so we can't match this bridge. Everyone avoids living there.
The present K bridge was rebuilt from 1970s to 1980s. At the foot of the bridge on K2 side, before the reconstruction of the bridge, there were two houses. After its reconstruction, both of the families moved to other places to avoid the foot of the bridge. It is said that they feared the harmful influence from the bridge.
That they fear to live at the foot of the bridge can be known not only by these discourses but also by visible evidence, that is to say, wooden plates. The house of S.T.N.(K2, male, 1941) is located beside the foot of K bridge on K2 side. Although his house is not located on the right foot of the bridge, many wooden plates written Taishan shi gan dang are put on the wall outside of his house. According to him, the reason is that he wants to avoid the harmful power of the bridge. Moreover, on K3 side, the house which meets at right angle to the extended line of the bridge puts a wooden plate written Taishan dang daqiao, which means Mt.Tai Shan shelters from the big bridge, at the point on the wall outside.
In addition to this, there are some people who give even towards gates of village and Dong opera stages the same meanings as to drum towers and bridges. Q.W.Z.(K2, male, 1942) told me like this;
The foot of the bridges, right under drum towers, right opposite village gates and the side of Dong opera stages are all harmful to inhabit. Because they are wagx, we can't match them, they overwhelm us.
Similar way of thinking is also applied to building of the administrative village office. When a new building of the administrative village office was under construction on K3 side in 1995, Y.Y.M. ( K3,male,1920s) raised an objection to the direction of the main gate of the building in the plan. According to the original plan, the main gate was to face towards K3 settlement, so he demanded to change the direction of the gate elsewhere. The reason was that the gate facing towards K3 settlement would give harmful influence to villagers of K3. He explained for me like this;
We villagers of K3 could not agree with the original plan. The office building represents (village) government, whereas we have less power than the government, so we can't match the power. The bigger naturally overwhelms the smaller. Because drum towers belong to wagx, so they have power of wagx. Government office buildings belong to government, so they have power of the government. Hence, villagers cannot match government office buildings just as one person cannot match drum tower .
After all, the original plan was changed to meet their demand.
To sum up, the local Dong people of my research villages generally do not regard public architecture as mere matter. They think that the public buildings belong to wagx, so they have power of wagx, in the same way, the government office buildings have power of government.
The Public Architecture which Has to be Guarded
It is important to add another aspect of the public architecture. Whenever I heard about the information on the construction of new public buildings in the neighborhood villages, I tried to go to observe. However, to my surprise, not a few people gave me advice not to go to see them. The reason was that it was very dangerous to approach the new public architecture indiscreetly.
As a beginning I would like to refer to the Dong opera stage. Some local people told me the stories as follows;
W.T.L.(K2,male, 1929) ;
When the opera stage of K1 was completed in about 1950, a man whose name was Y.N.S.(K1) died. He was born on the same year, month, day and time as me. If he were alive, he would be 65 years old. He liked to play opera very much. Soon after finishing the first play at the new stage, he died at his house. He died to guard the stage.
W.M.X.(K2, male, 1910);
Soon after playing opera at the new stage, Y.N.S. got sick, and died at his house. Ghost wanted him to guard the stage. Although old stage does not need the man to guard, new ones do.
Y.N.Z.( K3, female,1930s);
It is dangerous for you to play on the new opera stage on which no one has played before. I avoid to see the first play on the new stage, because someone should die. Do not go to see the first play on the new stage. Someone should die to guard the stage.
As for drum tower, the local people think in the same way. In 1993, K3 new drum tower was accomplished and a celebration was held. Someone said to me as follows;
After the celebration a 19 years-old girl who came to see died of illness. She died to guard the drum tower.
Besides this, it is reported that at Gaoding village, Dudong Xiang in Sanjiang County, when a new drum tower was under construction in 1991, the fall down of a main pillar of the drum tower killed a 5 years old boy. The elderly in the village judged that the boy died to guard the new drum tower [Deng& Wu 1995:216]. As for K1, K2 and K3 drum towers, because they were constructed too many years ago, none of the villagers to whom I asked knew exactly about the persons who died to guard these drum towers.
As for bridge, the local people also think in the same way. S.Y.F. (K2,male,1918);
When public architecture, both drum tower and bridge, are under construction if you approach these buildings, it is quite possible for you to guard them, that is to say, to die. You have to know about this, because these are matters of wagx. Wagx have to be guarded by someone.
According to the report of Li & Wu, in Sanjiang County three cases of the building of the new bridge are thought to be associated with the death of person and it is believed that each of the dead guards the bridge [Li & Wu 1993:117-119]. As for K bridge which was accomplished in 1911, and afterward washed away by the flood in 1937, because this bridge was constructed too many years ago, nobody of the villagers to whom I asked know exactly the persons who died to guard the bridge.
However, the notion of the local people toward private houses is in contrast to that of toward the public architecture. There is no feeling of fear to death toward the construction of private houses.
As the examples shown above, the building of new public architecture such as drum tower, bridge and opera stage are often thought to be associated with the death of person, because buildings of wagx have to be guarded by someone.
The Uniqueness of Drum Tower
In this chapter, I would like to focus attention on the uniqueness of drum tower by comparison to other public buildings.
It is essential to refer to dags lagx bac to consider the uniqueness of drum tower. What does dags lagx bac mean? The explanation of S.Y.S.(K1,male,1926);
In the case someone didn't act harmoniously with others or caused trouble, then dags lagx bac was done. Wagx went into drum tower and knocked (dags ) a tooth (lagx) of harrow (bac) at a main pillar. After doing this, the person was prohibited to both come into the drum tower and to do indiscreet remarks, and was regarded as a valueless man. I have never seen this. I have just heard from the elderly. The tooth of a harrow has been pulled out already.
We had private rule here in the past. When someone didn't obey and did harm to others, wagx held meeting and knocked (dags) a tooth (lagx) of harrow (bac) at a main pillar of drum tower. This made the man fall ill or die. If he reformed himself, the tooth of harrow was pulled out. That wagx did dags lagx bac was equal to dismissal from the membership. I have never seen the dags lagx bac before. I only heard from my father.
He also told me;
You can't go against the rule that people decided inside drum tower. Drum tower is the best leader which leads our village.
It is important that in K village I never heard that dags lagx bac was done at other public buildings, that is, bridge or opera stage. It is reported dags lagx bac was also done inside drum towers in other villages(8) [Deng Minwen&Wu Hao 1986:66;1995:157; Guo &Deng Xinghuang 1984:145;Wu Shihua 1990:22; Zhang Min 1985 :46].
There is another example which shows the uniqueness of drum tower as well as dags lagx bac. According to the elderly, public order of K1 and K2 was disturbed in 1940s (before the liberation). It is said that both K1 and K2 drum towers were cut down to recover public order. This happening gives us suggestion to understand the view of the local people toward the drum towers. According to S.Y.S.(K1,male,1926);
In the past, K1 drum tower was very high and big with an octagonal roof. The figure of the drum tower was just like a sharp-pointed horn of a cow. The youth of K1 liked to fight and went to other village to invade and beat others just as cow with a sharp-pointed horn likes to fight. So elders, to stop the youth to do such acts of violence, cut K1 drum tower down from nine storeys to five and at the same time changed the shape of the roof of the drum tower from sharp-pointed to non sharp-pointed style. K2 drum tower was also cut down.
Because the youth liked to fight each other, so drum towers were cut down. If drum towers are too high, they become to like fighting, if make the drum tower lower, then the youth become modest .
Height of drum tower represents the mental condition of the members of the drum tower. If drum tower is too high, then the members want to make themselves higher than others, inevitably, this leads to strife easily. The drum tower is like a person. At that time, they had pistols. They often shot pistols and committed murders. So, K1 and K2 drum towers were cut down.
It is clear that the local people think that the shape or height of drum tower influences the mental condition of the villagers. However, as for bridge and opera stage I have not heard about discourse like this. And this kind of thought is not limited within K village. I have heard similar discourse in some neighborhood villages a few times.
There are some more aspects of drum tower. Before the liberation, the height of the personal houses was regulated strictly in the villages where I did fieldwork. S.Y.S.(K1,male,1926) ;
You should not build your house higher than drum tower. Drum tower is wagx. You should not overwhelm this.
Drum tower represents whole village. If you are higher than drum tower you can't stand. My former house was lower than this house in which I live now. After the liberation, the old style, lower houses disappeared from the village because of their inconvenience to live.
It is said that the regulation was mitigated after the liberation. Actually now, there are some houses higher than drum tower in K village. However, it seems that this way of thinking still remains in some other places. I heard that a rich man of neighborhood village recently had a plan to build his own house, which was higher than the drum tower of his village, other villagers did not allow him to do so. With regard to other public buildings, I have not heard about the regulation like this.
The view of the local people toward drum towers and the squares can be known by the special usage of the word "louc"and"sagx". As I mentioned above, drum tower is often called liangc tingc, and under specific situation called louc by the local people. For example, if they want to express in local Dong language that the people of the three villages, that is to say K1, K2 and K3, go, they may express two ways. One is; Saml nanl louc bail, this can be translated in English literally as follows; Three drum towers go. The other is; Saml nanl sagx bail, as I mentioned above, sagx is the square in front of a drum tower. So, this can be translated in English literally as follows; Three squares in front of drum tower go. In this way, louc and sagx are used as pronouns that indicate the members of each village which each drum tower and square represents. It is important that louc or sagx used as pronouns can never be replaced by other public buildings such as bridge(jiuc, in Dong language), opera stage (daic xil, in Dong language)and so on.
Finally, I refer to the following discourse. It is mentioned by the local elders that when whole village is burnt down, the rebuilding of drum tower should be previous to that of private houses, whereas for other public buildings, it is not mentioned like this. Similar discourses are reported from other places that drum tower should be built before constructing village, or, that frame of drum tower or a cryptomeria tree, which symbolizes drum tower, should be erected after the burning of a settlement by fire, [Shi Tingzhang 1985:115;Yang Baoyuan 1982:101;Wang 1987:46; Wu Wanyuan 1989:72,et al.].
Although each of bridge, opera stage and drum tower is related to the wagx concept, the notion of local people toward drum tower is special. They regard drum towers as beings which relate to the wagx concept most deeply and represent wagx most intensely, probably because drum towers, including the square (sagx), are the most important meeting and amusement places among public buildings for them.
What is wagx?
In this chapter, I examine the word wagx to which I have referred many times.
At K village, the words wagx, wagx xangh are translated into Chinese word dazhong or qun zhong. And it seems that, as mentioned later, the words wagx, wagx xangh are also used in Liping, Congjiang, Rongjiang and Tongdao Counties. In this case, generally, wagx is translated into Chinese as zhong, zhong ren, or qun zhong, wagx xangh is as zhong ren or qun zhong [Zhang Sheng,et al 1996:274; Yang Shengzhong(ed.) 1992:79,81; Hunan shaoshuminzu guji bangongshi(eds.) 1988:65,199,437;Yang Quan,et al 1988:121,125]. Zhong, zhong ren, qun zhong can be retranslated into English as crowd, everybody, the masses.
For the local people, as we have seen above, when the word wagx is used as other words of public buildings, the scope of what the word wagx indicates is limited within the social group to which each public building belongs. The word wagx has the concrete range for the local people. Here, I quote a popular proverb concerning wagx that spreads through the entire neighborhood of K village. The proverb "Nyenc magh geih dah wagx, wagx magh geih dah senl." is used in the situations needed to stress the limitation of an individual power. The meaning of this proverb is as follows; however big (power of) nyenc is, nyenc cannot match wagx, however big (power of) wagx is, wagx cannot match senl. Wagx is the concept placed between nyenc and senl. Nyenc means an individual in this case, so the logic of the first half of the proverb is parallel to that of the relation between private house and public architecture which drum tower most represent. According to the local people's explanation, wagx means whole members of the same natural village (xaih in Dong language), senl means, in this case, a limited concrete area which includes some natural villages (xaih)(9).
A Prospect from the Case of K Village
Finally I must examine how far the case of K village is applicable within the southern dialect area. For this purpose, it is necessary to examine whether there are regional differences about the wagx concept between my research villages (in northern part of Sanjiang County) and other districts, particularly Guizhou Province where most other studies have taken interests. However, because of the lack of the detailed data based on both intensive and extensive fieldwork, it is impossible to make comparison in detail at present stage. Hence, what I can do at this stage is to gather fragmented information and presume by making use of such information.
At first, we must make clear whether the local people of other districts of the southern dialect area use the word wagx. It seems that in the southern dialect area the word wagx or those which are equivalent to wagx exist widely. For example we can find the word wagx in an oral tradition of Tongdao County in Hunan, the word wagx xangh in those of Liping, Congjiang and Rongjiang Counties in Guizhou and the word wagx jenl in those of Liping County Guizhou. [Hunan shaoshuminzu guji bangongshi (eds.) 1988: 20,65,199 ; Yang Shengzhong(ed.) 1992: 49, 77, 79, 81, 218; Zhongguo minjian wenyi yanjiuhui Guizhou fenhui(eds.) n.d.:22;1985:174]
Then, the next question is that whether the word wagx is related to public buildings, especially to drum towers, in other districts.
First, it is reported that there are public small halls called dangc wagx [Zhang Min 1985 :41 ; Dongzu jianshi bianxiezu (eds.) 1985 : 20]. Unfortunately, no data of the distribution of this building is shown. I presume these buildings are distributed in Guizhou Province, because Zhang Min who reported dangc wagx is from Congjiang County in Guizhou Province.
Second, it is reported that, in Congjiang County and its neighborhood, the social hierarchy between master villages and servant villages corresponded to difference of heights of drum towers ［Shi Tingzhang 1987 (1982) :41］. Besides, it is also reported three villages (father, mother and child village) at Gaozeng, Congjiang County,and some villages (mother village and some children villages) at Chengge, Liping County also correspond to difference of heights of drum towers [Liu 1989:69 ; Huang 1985 : 29]. However, these cases do not show the information about whether these drum towers have relation to the wagx concept. Unfortunately, the information about this is also very poor.
By putting the fragmented information mentioned above together, I presume that there is some possibility that local Dong people in other districts, especially in Liping and Congjiang Counties in Guizhou, have the wagx concept , and the concept is connected with public architecture as with the villagers of K village.
The relationship between drum towers and the wagx concept of Dong people of Guizhou has not been argued until now. Further studies may prove the local Dong people of Liping and Congjiang Counties not only conceptualize the drum towers as a big cryptomeria which shields them from the sun and rain or a nest of fish in paddy field or fish pond , but also have the wagx concept toward drum towers.
If I take the above assumption and follow through, the next subject to be examined is whether the local notion that drum tower sometimes do the local people harm exist in other districts of the southern dialect area. At present stage, as far as I know, almost no information is reported on this respect (10). However, this lack of information does not necessarily mean that the local people in other districts in the southern dialect area consider the drum towers to be without harm.
Now let us remember the current trend of the studies in China on drum towers. A point of departure of the studies is, as mentioned above, the drum tower culture doctrine. Very few Chinese ethnologists have criticized this doctrine(11). This fact proves that this doctrine has been accepted widely among Chinese scholars and, at the same time, had influence on most of the studies on drum tower after 1985. The drum tower culture doctrine has a clear tendency to emphasize the value of drum tower as representation of Dong culture and as a symbol of Dong people.(12) Hence, I suspect that most of these studies, with this bias, have only emphasized that local people regard drum towers as favorable beings for them. This view only captures one side of the local people's conception towards drum towers. I suppose that there is some possibility that drum tower is sometimes thought to be very harmful to them by the local people in other districts in the southern dialect area. It remains as a task to make clear the totality of the notions of the local people towards drum tower in the southern dialect area, especially Congjiang, Liping and Rongjiang Counties in Guizhou Province on which the knowledge of the drum tower culture doctrine is based.
I have pointed out the two respects that other studies have not referred to before; 1) in K village Drum towers are thought to be related to the wagx concept most tightly among public buildings, in this case wagx indicates the members of the village community which belongs to the drum tower, 2)Drum tower has both favorable and harmful aspects for the local people because of its representation of wagx.
I presume that there is some possibility of the case of K village being applicable to other districts of the southern dialect area, especially to Liping and Congjiang Counties. I suspect that current studies on drum tower has been influenced by the drum tower culture doctrine which has obvious tendency to overemphasize the favorable aspect of drum tower for the local people. Anyway, I have to judge whether my assumption is right or not by accumulation of extensive fieldwork in the near future.
This research was supported by a grant from Toyota Foundation. And I am grateful to the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences for becoming my host organization and helping my fieldwork, to everybody for giving me valuable advice, and to the villagers of K for helping me very kindly.
(1) For more detailed information on the process of the creation of the drum tower culture doctrine, see Kaneshige[1998 :140-143].
(2) Dong language has nine tones. When the language is romanized, the last letter of each syllable shows the tone as follows: l(55), p(35), c(11), s(323), t(13), x(31), v(53), k(453), h(33).
(3) According to Shi Lin, the northern dialect area includes; Jinping, Tianzhu, Jianchuan, Sansui, Yuping, Wanshan, Zhenyuan Counties (Guizhou), part of Jingzhou (Xinjie), Xinhuang, Zhijiang Counties (Hunan), and southern dialect area includes; Rongjiang, Liping, Congjiang Counties (Guizhou), part of Jingzhou (Xinchang Xiang), Tongdao Counties (Hunan), Longsheng, Sanjiang, Rong'an, Rongshui, Luocheng Counties (Guangxi) [Shi Lin 1997:201](see map)
(4) It is reported that Rongjiang County has some drum towers and bridges with roof [Qiandongnanzhou wenhuaju n.d. :60,61,65,79;Pu Hong 1984: 174], however, the detailed number of these is not shown.
(5) Sometimes local people give drum towers geomantic (fengshui) meanings, however, this is not my concern in this paper. I will argue about this problem in the near future.
(6) The wall-less and hearth-less design of K3 new drum tower is different from those of other 5 drum towers. Many women as well as men come to this drum tower to chat, take rests and so on.
(7) Here, according to the original meaning given in the dictionary, I translated "namo'emituofo" into "I devote myself to Amitabha!". I doubt whether Y.Y.M. knows this original meaning.
(8) However, in other places it is reported that this is called "dags jingl bac".
(9) In K village and its neighborhood, each senl is thought as the limited region which contains several villages (xaih) along the same river. Some examples of the concrete range of each senl can be known by Hunan shaoshuminzu guji bangongshi(eds.)［1988：7-18, 25-43］.
(10) According to the explanation on drum tower which I saw in June 1990 at the Qinglongdong museum of architecture in Zhenyuan County, Guizhou province, when local people erect the frame of drum tower in their village, because the drum tower gives out very bad aura, so the people who live near the drum tower hang mirrors at the gates of their houses to avoid the bad influence. Unfortunately, the place where this custom is held is not shown.
(11) Chinese scholar Yang Shunqing argues that it is problematic to identify the drum tower culture with whole of the Dong culture, that is to say, that the former is merely a part of the latter.[Yang Shunqing 1990 :58-59].
(12) The studies which view drum towers from the angle of the drum tower culture doctrine, with exclusive concentration on the drum tower alone, also have the common tendency of neglecting to consider drum tower from the view of comparison with other public buildings. In addition , I argue that the drum tower doctrine is also problematic because of its exaggeration in two respects. One is that drum towers cannot represent all the Dong inhabiting areas because the Dong people of the northern dialect area do not have drum towers. The other is that drum towers cannot represent all of the aspects of Dong culture of the southern dialect area.
List of Chinese Terms
fengxiong huaji 逢凶化吉
qun ren 群人
qun zhong 群衆
namo'emituofo ZhongKui dang loujiao 南無阿弥陀佛 鐘馗當楼角
Taishan dang daqiao 泰山當大橋
Taishan shi gan dang 泰山石敢當
Village Community and Public Architecture
Labels: Dong Culture
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