Nuo dance - treasure of Maonan ethnic group

Tan Shengci (left) teaches two young boys the Nuo dance in Huanjiang (环江) Maonan (毛南) autonomous county in Guangxi (广西) Zhuang (壮) autonomous region on August 18, 2013. Photos: Xinhua


The mysterious Nuo dance, a Maonan folk art tradition, is considered a treasure of the ethnic group. Dancers wear wooden masks while performing the traditional dance. Each mask, usually 30 cm high and 20 cm wide, is designed based on characters from Maonan oral literature.


Tan Shengci, an heir to the intangible cultural heritage, has lived in the mountainous area of Huanjiang Maonan autonomous county in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region all his life and has protected the folk art tradition.


The 72-year-old artist also has been perfecting the skill of making masks for 50 years. He said one mask was once sold at a very high price and was listed as an intangible cultural heritage.


Other than the Nuo dance, few young people also want to learn the technique of making the masks. Even if the lessons are free, there are still deterrents such as how long it takes to make just one mask, the complicated process involved in making them, and the lack of available sales channels once the masks are done.


To attract apprentices, Tan publishes recruiting information through various outlets. During this summer vacation, two boys interested in the folk art went to his hometown to study the traditional art form under him.


"I told them many stories to interest them. I hope they will love the art form and the skills behind it, and pass down the techniques," Tan said enthusiastically.  

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