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Same Drum Beating, Different Feelings

BEIJING, September 24-- A red headband with a pheasant tail feather, and a dark blue shirt made from hand-woven cloth are enough to make Tang Qiao Xin Er Gong and Tang Mai She Gong stand out in a crowd.

But the stares of the passers-by did not seem to bother them much. Both from the Yao nationality in south China's Guangdong Province, they are here to attend the ongoing Second National Joint Artistic Performances by Ethnic Minority Groups.

Tang Qiao Xin Er Gong, 61, is known as "the king of the drum" in his hometown of Liannan. The Yao drum, about 90 centimeters long and weighing 10 kilograms, is attached to the waist. A whole drum performance consists of 38 actions and frequent revolving leaps.

"The drum is a form of exercise for us," said Tang Mai She Gong, 58, partner of Tang Qiao Xin Er Gong.

Drum beating has been a traditional way of celebrating the harvest among the Yao people for more than 2,000 years.

Tang Mai She Gong is also known as the "king of singers" among the 130,000-strong Yao nationality in Guangdong Province.

He and 120 other ethnic performers, including singers and poets, met Deng Xiaoping in 1979.

This time, when President Jiang Zemin met the ethnic artists at the Great Hall of the People, the two Yao artists were standing on the third row and were not able to shake hands with the president.

"Younger artists should have more opportunities these days," they said. Many of the performers had come to Beijing for the first time.

The changes that have taken place in Beijing since they were last here have been tremendous in the eyes of the two Yao actors.

"There were not so many buildings in Beijing 20 years ago," said Tang Mai She Gong. "The services were not as good as they are today. And there was not such a wonderful place to stage performances."

The performers this time are living in the Universiad Village, which has just received college athletes from all over the world.

Tang Qiao Xin Er Gong's experiences in Beijing 20 years ago made him one of the most popular people in the village for years.

Improved communication with the outside world have stimulated the Yao people's minds, encouraging them to improve their lives with their own hands.

The white chicken feather symbolizes the reaping hook, and the pheasant feather represents the Yao people's vigor for work, explained Tang Mai She Gong.

Many young people have left their mountain villages and started businesses in economically prosperous cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The annual average income per capita among the Yao people was 120 yuan (about 10 U.S. dollars) in the years before 1980s. The figure has increased to 1,100 yuan (about 133 U.S. dollars) today.

More and more young people are fond of drum beating, and even women have begun to join the team, which never occurred before in the history of Yao nationality.

The old men said that the more they have contact with the outside world, the less conservative they are.

Though they are still wearing the traditional ethnic costumes, they have replaced their straw sandals with name-brand sports shoes.

-- source: Xinhua News Agency

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