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Directory Of Year 2006, Issue 12
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Current Location:English » 200612 » BULLFIGHTING Of the Dong Ethnic Group
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BULLFIGHTING Of the Dong Ethnic Group

Year:2006 Issue:12

Column: TRAVEL

Author: Zhao Yue

Release Date:2006-12-01

Page: 46,47

Full Text:  

The Year 2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, Established in 1956, and designated by the United Nations as one of the two Ethnic Group Culture Protection Zones in China, the prefecture accommodates more than one million Dong, nearly half the population of this fascinating people in China.

In the Dong Autonomous Prefecture, bullfighting is a celebrated event and a very popular form of entertainment among the native Dong people. Amid a scene full of ethnic color and energy, neighboring villagers meet to compete in the broad open space selected as the venue. And the games begin.

Qiandongnan has its own distinct history of bullfighting comprised of particular customs. Unlike the Western style of bullfighting, in which a matador takes on a charging bull, Qiandongnan bullfighting is literally that: Two bulls fighting. In many parts of the prefecture, bullfights take place each month. A grand event, the native people typically take a break from their farming to enjoy the bovine competition.

Most of the fighting bulls are supported by a village collectively, but some large and wealthier families are able to raise and support their own animal contenders. Purchased for a handsome sum, these animals are pampered and free from farm work. The bovine youngsters begin their fight training at the age of five or six, receiving punishment when losing and being granted awards when winning. A good fighting bull may continue his sporting career for up to 16 years. To beef up and gain strength, two weeks before a contest a fighting bull will be fed plenty of glutinous rice and raw eggs. Very often, a bullfight is considered not only a contest between the animals, but also a friendly competition between villages.

Follow up to victory.

Follow up to victory. CFP

A hard-fought match up.
by Wu Dongjun/CFP

A hard-fought match up. by Wu Dongjun/CFP

In the past, when a fight was announced, bull owners would seek out their rivals on their own. If the inviting party and the invited party agreed to a fight, the competition would begin. However, back then some bulls would fail to be matched with opponents and could only be taken home to await the next match. That was then. Today the width of a bull's horns is measured and by this method all fighters are slotted and classified in preparation for a match. Then within their respective category the owners draw lots to determine their rival.

Battling bovines at rest.
by Chen Gengsheng/CFP

Battling bovines at rest. by Chen Gengsheng/CFP

Large audiences turn out for the big fight.
by Wu Dongjun/CFP

Large audiences turn out for the big fight. by Wu Dongjun/CFP

Before the fight begins, some bulls are fed with rice wine to bolster their courage and strength. If a bull remains undefeated for an entire year, he is designated as the "overlord." And when it comes time for another fight, the villagers will hold a sign over the honored beast that reads "Overlord."

After three rounds of blasting firecrackers, the two bulls of contending villages stride down from two sides of a hill into the huge open space. Young people from the two competing villages lead the bulls, holding their ropes while putting dance moves into their walk to further energize the atmosphere. After some preparation, the handlers release their bulls. Very often, with heads lowered the two bulls will immediately rush each other, colliding with great force and a tremendous slamming of heads and horns. Together with the audiences' applause and cheers, that booming sound adds to the myriad noises within the hills. The bulls themselves typically fight hard to not yield a single step.

If one bull loses the field and takes flight, the contest becomes even more exciting, as the victor chases after. If a winner is not decided for too long a time, the owners may wield bamboo whips and ropes lassoed to horns and rear legs to separate the angry animals.

There are otherwise amusing moments during the games. Some bulls may seem timid, at first reluctant to take the field, behaving as if they wish to escape. However, when irritated these seemingly cowardly bulls may transform with amazingly violent disposition and decimate their rivals. And some very small bulls show no fear and exert their utmost strength in battle with larger foes. Although they may be wounded and badly bloodied, they will not turn from the field. For their spirit, these smaller and tougher bulls are often generously pampered and rewarded by their keepers-even if they lose.

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