"Walking guests", "Disturbing the Village" and customs in proposing a toast
The Miao people in the Langde village of Leishan County in Guizhou call visiting relatives "walking guests", which is called " Di'anghan" in Miao language. There are several situations for "walking". For example: when meeting with accidents or in festivals, they "walk"; when there are happy events(such as marriage, building new houses and having child), they " walk". The variety and number of presents in different situations are different.
When married women come back to their parents' home or when in big festivals (mainly New Product Eating festival and Miao New Year), people "walk" with a chicken, a bundle of polished glutinous rice(2-3 liters), a piece of meat(salt or fresh) and carp. All these presents are commonly called "mixed bundle". When guests come, the host's families should not only entertain them warmly, but also call the paternal uncles and cousins and all the members of the village to unwrap the " mixed bundle", and drink and have dinner together. They taste the delicacies brought by the guests to show their welcoming the guests from far away. Then the host should share the polished glutinous rice with every family of the village. On the second day, people who shared the "mixed bundle" should invite guests to their homes in turns of order of seniority in the family and age. Other paternal uncles and cousins should accompany the guests. The guests "walk" four to five families a day, but they have to eat supper in the host's home. It is so on the third day, and it lasts 2-3 days. This activity is called "disturbing village".
The custom of "Disturbing village" has lasted till now since the ancient. When it comes, all the paternal members gather happily under the same roof, talk of everything under the sun, and chitchat. This helps to link up affections among relatives and strengthen the unity and harmony within clans and families.
When the guests leave, the host and people who shared the " mixed bundle" should send presents back to the guests. After guests leave, they can't close the door right away until the guests go far away, which shows that the door is open to welcome the guests to come again. When guests go out of the village, the host should lead the way ahead. They should go on main road instead of path, which means they wish the guests to have a pleasant trip. When honorable guest leaves, paternal uncles and cousins and all the people in the village should see him off. Women put all colors of cloth strips on shoulders and necks of the guests to express good wish, and the guests should wear them until they reach home. At the same time, women should propose toasts to guests, and sing loud and clear " flying songs" (seeing off songs):"Guests are reluctant to leave, the feast is over, and the place is desolate. Grass if going to grow at the feast place, and grass is going to be in a jumble. It wouldn't look good when guests come, so we look forward to the returning of guests, in order that we drink together there, and let grass disappear." Then the guests sing antiphonally:" When we come to your home, we drank nine jars of wine, ate up nine pools of fish, and the feast should be over now. Today we should return home, and we reluctant to go. Guests will come to your home continuously, and grass is hard to grow here." The host and guests echo each other and depart reluctantly.
The Miaos in Langde regard wine as the most important when entertaining guests. During guests come to the gate and they leave the village, wine is drunk almost anytime everywhere: blocking the way wine, getting into the house wine, proposing toasts, leaving wine, seeing off wine, etc. What is very interesting is that during feasts, hosts and guests drink the nuptial cup. There are two ways to drink it: one is that the host and the guest feed wine into each other's mouths; the other is they cross their wrists and drink wine in their own cup. And all the people in the feast can drink the nuptial cup together.
Besides the nuptial cup, customs of proposing toasts are also quite special.
Proposing toasts is usually done by women. There are two turns: in the first turn, toasts are offered to the host first, and then to the guests; in the second turn, vise visa. Sometimes, no matter who is host and who is guest, the oldest one is offered toast first. The one who is the last to be offered should propose a toast back to express thankfulness. Two cups of wine should be drunk by one person both in nuptial cup and in proposing toasts. Because in their mind, people walk with two feet, so they drink two cups of wine. When offering toasts, women hold cups in hands and sing toast song loudly:" We killed bull and waited for the coming of honorable guests everyday, but no one came. Today the guests come to our home by mistake. There is no good wine in jars and no fish and meat in plates. So we can only express our good will with pickled cabbage soup." The guest takes over the cup and continues to sing:" I have had the idea to visit relatives for long, but I'm busy with family matters and can't get free. Today I take the liberty to come here, and you entertain me warmly. Food in dishes is full, and nice wine is in jars. I'm very happy and thank nice host." The host and the guest echo each other, and the atmosphere is warmer.
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