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Hand-Waving Dance of Tujia Ethnic Group


The Hand-Waving Dance is a dance used in sacrificial rituals and is common especially in western Hunan Province. With a history of over 500 years, it is a traditional collective performance of the Tujia people. The Hand-Waving Dance expresses the origin, religion, immigration, historic events, life, and customs of the Tujia groups and is a splendid historical epic.


From the 3rd day to the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Tujia people hold large-scale sacrificial, prayer and celebratory activities. The Hand-Waving Dance is an integral part of these activities.



When dancing, all the dancers form a circle on the ground with the “wizard” leading at the front, and dance with their arms swinging freely and legs following all kinds of floor patterns to the music of drums and gongs. The dancers keep waving their arms in all directions, hence the name the Hand-Waving Dance. There are two kinds of Hand-Waving Dance. One is performed by several thousand people at the Great King of Eight Tribes (the progenitor of the Tijua people) sacrificial ritual; while the other, performed in lesser numbers, commemorates the memory of Penggong Juezhu, the progenitor of some of the families.


In the past, the Hand-Waving Dance was a martial dance and used when fighting an enemy. This dance, now with its seventy ritual gestures that represent rituals, war, hunting, farming and other aspects of life, is popular at the New Year Festival and other festive occasions. Though simple and rough, it looks beautiful and has an impressive primitive style. It expresses the origin, immigration and historic events of the Tujia ethnic group.


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