Amy Tan Reveals Stories of Dong Folk Songs

For the National Geographic special issue on China, author Amy Tan wrote about the village of Dimen in Guizhou. On National Public Radio, Tan discussed the Dong people who live in the village and their tradition of using song to communicate. You can listen to clips of the music on the NPR site:

“Entering into the village I had little girls singing those songs — those dong songs, the welcoming songs — one at each elbow,” Tan says. “However, the singing isn’t just to welcome tourists, it’s how the culture communicates with each other.”

While these “gate-barring songs” are reserved mainly for tourists and official guests, the Dong song-style is a form of communication every child learns from the age of 5. “And they sing on key, on rhythm, perfectly a capella, in tune with one another,” Tan says.

Young children not only sing to greet but also talk about community and the changing of seasons.


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