As one of the ethnic minority groups in China, the Dong people are believed to be the descendants of the ancient Guyue people. With a population of 2.6 million, Dong people are mainly distributed in eastern Guizhou, western Hunan, and northern Guangxi. The Grand Song is a kind of folk music and also a cultural treasure of the Dong people.
The Grand Song of the Dong ethnic minority group is a distinctive form of artistic expression in China. Performed without any help of musical instruments, it is similar to a cappella in the Western countries. Besides, the Grand Song is performed a huge group of people without the benefit of a conductor, which is featured by the complex structure and the rapid changes in rhythm of the chorus. Besides, the songs may be solo or chorus with multiple voice parts.
The Grand Song is not only a cappella performance of folk music, but also a cultural symbol of the Dong ethnic minority group. The Dong people do not have their own written language. Instead of writing down their own stories, Dong people prefer to transmit them in an oral way. The Grand song, which rests on this tradition, is all the "stories" of Dong culture, from creation stories to stories of kindness, sincerity, friendship, love, social harmony, respect for nature, and respect for one's ancestors. In short, all of the stories deemed worthy of being remembered are preserved in the Grand Song. No wonder that the Grand Song has been called 'An Encyclopedia of Dong Social Customs'.
Generally, a chorus is made up of a family and the formal performing place is the local drum-tower. Usually the host group would invite visiting guests to join the song in the antiphonal style. But it should be between groups of different genders, and song groups of the same gender cannot invite each other to sing. With graceful melody and free rhythm, the Grand Song is sometimes calm and fluent, sometimes smart and bold. To better appreciate the Grand Chorus, one should have a better understanding of its musical structure, main theme and style, and most importantly, the unique culture of Dong people.