Ceremony of Worshipping Goddess Sa Held in Longsheng County
Worship of the Great Grandmother “Sasui”
As a good old tradition of the Dong (link) people, the worship of Sasui is of utmost importance. Sasui is the source of Dong people’s life and she is the goddess blessing them with good harvests, health and the happiness in life. It is an emblem of the matriarchal society of the Dong people for thousands of years.
The Sasui statue is places in a shrine protected with rattan and wood so it is not damaged by human or animals. It is stored in a holy place. She will be carefully carried out and placed on an altar for the 3000 Dong people in nearby areas to worship. Each spring at Baozeng Dong village, the ritual takes place with traditional Dong singing and dancing.
According to the legend, Sa protected the Dong people against the intruders and finally died by jumping off the cliff. Afterwards, Dong people set up sacrificial altars in mermory of her extraordinary bravery and fearless self-sacrifice.
The ritual consists of Raw Sacrifice, the Parade, Cooked Sacrifice, Singing & Dancing, Hundred-Family-Banquet.
Raw Sacrifice takes place at dawn. The village Shamans and venerable elders carry the freshly butchered pig to the holy place where Sasui is stored. Ritual is performed to “invite” the Goddess to go out for the mass worship.
Then the Parade. The statue is carried out by strong men, led by the Dong shamans, followed by “guards” (dressed up villagers) and other villagers carrying bunches of rice straw and gift baskets. The direction of the parade is determined by the shamans, judged by their own mythical calculation.
The Parade goes thru the villages in the “Gold Basin” to hand out blessings, performed by the Shamans. When passing the Wind & Rain Bridges and Drum Towers, the Sasui Parade stops over to perform rituals to the various gods. In return, the villagers put their red bags containing money to the basket placed in front of Sasui statue.
Dong people dance, sing and sacrifice animals to Goddess Sasui to pray that she bless and protect the village. On the same day, after the ceremony came the “Hundreds-Family Banquet”. Numbers of tables were lined along the streets and the big feast was kicked off at 2:30 pm and lasted to dusk.
Around noon time, Sasui Goddess comes back to her shrine in the main village and receive tributes, this time, in the form of cooked food. This is the Cooked Sacrifice. Cooked pig heads, trotters, and tails are presented along with 24 bowls of rice porridge. Incenses and paper (imitating money) are burnt by the worshippers.
Singing and Dancing is the next and held at the central stone platform (could be cement, earth or mixed) where a big fire is lit up and kept till the end of this part of ritual. Performing troupes from various villages join with traditional Duoye Dance, Lusheng Musical Dance, Beat the Rice Cake Dance, Story Telling, Stool Dance, Cloth Beating Dance, and Dong people’s Pipa Musical. At the end of performance, people rush to the fire place and take a small part to their own house to show the blessing will be transferred to their own family.
Near dusk, low tables and long wood stools are laid out, one next to each other, forming a very long dinner table. The visiting Dong people, from as far as Hunan province, and the entire main village will be out dining, drinking and singing. Pickled meat, fish, duck are presented, as they are the best food of the Dong family. Some are raw meat steeped in sour soup for over a year. Some are placed right on a burning charcoal for the best flavor.
Fun continues till late into the night at Baozeng. And the hospitable Dong people is always ready to ask a visitor to join and share.
The ceremony is fixedly held on the first Mao day of February by lunar calendar. So, plan your itinerary in advance, and never miss out such a gala of Dong people. The hospitable Dong people will show their warmest welcome to friends all over the world!
The ritual of Dong people paying homage to the Sasui Goddess has been listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Baozeng, called the “Gold Basin”, refers to the 8 or 9 villages dotting around a valley near Longsheng County. Built during 1368-1398 during the Ming Dynasty, it was little touched by the outside world. Now with the roads paved for motorized vehicles, it is easily accessible from Guilin, around 4hrs drive. From Longsheng, it is nearly 2hrs drive. Contact us if you wish to experience this authentic cultural activity.