Written by Emma Marler
The art of bamboo drifting is breathtakingly beautiful and original. It is typical of the Guizhou region in South-Western China and it is extremely unique. Before a video of this magical dance was posted by Great Big Story, an account that has 5 million subscribers on Youtube (hyperlink the video), it was an unknown art.
So what is bamboo drifting? Let’s find out!
It originated during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) as a means of transport. In fact, the city of Zunyi in Guizhou was renowned for its production of a very precious and expensive wood and it was greatly demanded by the emperors in the North of China. The problem was that in Guizhou they didn’t have big enough boats to carry the logs, so they rewarded citizens to stand and sail on one log each in order to transport them to the first destination that had adequate boats to continue the journey.
As time passed, riders became more experienced and competitive, challenging each other in balancing games and acrobatic movements. Even when in later years transporting the logs on the river was no longer a necessity, Guizhou residents never gave up their hobby. During the Qing dynasty, wood was then substituted by bamboo due to its cheaper costs and bamboo drifting competitions became extremely popular. During the Dragon Boat Festival, communities from all over Guizhou reunite to assist to different competitions, including bamboo drifting.
The biggest challenge with bamboo drifting is that the surface of the water is in constant movement so keeping your body balanced requires double the effort. For every movement you make your body shakes so you have to be able to control it, otherwise you’ll fall in the river!
Bamboo drifting started as an individual practice, one person only stood on the log to transport it. Nowadays there is not just single bamboo drifting but couple drifting as well. The Zunyi Bamboo Drifting Association started a new performance called ‘Ballet on Water’. Two dancers share one single piece of bamboo, it’s double the difficulty!
Bamboo drifting was listed in the National Traditional Games of Ethnic Minorities, an event which takes place every four years and showcases traditional games of every one of the 56 ethnic minorities in China.
Guizhou is the most multicultural region in China, therefore bamboo drifting is not typical of just one ethnic group. The Miao Hmong people are one of the minorities that have taken part in this tradition for a long time and love to wear their silver jewelry when performing!
Since at Interact China we are very passionate about keeping traditions alive, we really hope that the amazing art of bamboo drifting does not disappear. The women that manage the Zunyi Bamboo Drifting Association and train newcomers are now over 70. If young people lose interest, there is a chance that this beautiful and unique performance art will stop being practiced. Let’s spread the word and keep bamboo drifting going!
About Interact China
“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”
Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.
So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.
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