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Top Nine Sensational Customs of Tujia people

Singing Love Songs

To Tujia people, singing is more than a pastime, it also helps them to find a partner. During the market, you can see many young men sing to the same girl meanwhile. The girl will pick up the one she likes and allow him to send her home. The following three years will see them dating each other in market places and parks. One interesting phenomenon is that they need to sing all the way from home to the dating site. If the girl has been moved by the sincerity and love of the young man, she will agree to his marriage proposal. The man will send a matchmaker to her home. During this occasion, singing still plays a vital role.

Weeping before Wedding Ceremony

It is a custom unique to Tujia people. When a Tujia girl turns 12-year-old, her mother will teach her a must-learn technique: weeping. Years of effective training will prepare a Tujia girl into a top “actress”. In the presence of a matchmaker, relatives and neighbors a month prior to her wedding, a Tujia bride will cry so sadly and infectiously that the audiences will be left overwhelmed. The weeping songs are themed with her gratitude to parents, the reluctance to leave home and even the annoyance to the matchmaker. During my stay in Zhangjiajie, my guide, a Tujia girl, told me that her sister was so good at weeping that all the family members, villagers and relatives were moved to tears. Her mother-in-law, whom appreciated her filial piety so much that handed the power of the family to her the very wedding day.
Tujia Wedding Custom
tujia weeping wedding custom
tujia wedding zhangjiajie

Water-Dripping Bed:the dowry of a Tujia Girl

One of the most important dowries of a Tujia bride is a delicate wooden bed valued at more than 100,000RMB. It is made of sandalwood, the most expensive and sought-after furniture material. It is on this bed the bride performs the weeping custom to relatives and friends, hence it gets the name: “Water-Dripping Bed”. Consisting of carved eaves, two to three folding screens and railings, it takes after a miniature palace and is suitable for an emperor. When the screens are folded, one can enjoy utmost privacy and serenity within this enclosed space. For outsiders, these exquisite sculptures patterned after natural wonders to mythological animals and deities, are just too fantastic for the eye to take in. All of them are carved by folk artisans, one by one, during three years.

If you marvel at such a bed for a while, you will discern sun, moon, hills, rivers, flowers, trees, classic scenes from love stories such as Dream in the Red Chamber and The Romance of West Chamber,  daily labor activities such as rice cultivation, hunting, spinning and weaving as well as auspicious and mythological animals and deities symbolizing longevity, happiness, love and harmony.
tujia wedding
 water dripping bed
 water dripping bed
water dripping bed
Birth Custom

Whenever a Tujia woman gives birth to a boy, her husband will visit her parents with a rooster, if she delivers a girl, her husband will bring a hen and 100 red eggs. Her parents, in return, will offer him a buffalo, a bag of rice and vegetable oil. The new born baby will be bathed within hot water saturated with herbs first and weighed by an iron with the same weight later. After that, this iron will be wrapped up with a red fabric and placed under her or his bed. When a Tujia baby turns one month old, their parents will iron her or his feet with heated tiles.This sounds quite cruel and merciless. These parents have fair reasons to do so. To survive the hostile environment where mountains and valleys predominate, they need one pair of iron-hard feet. In this way, they can stay safe from gravels and thorns. Legend has it that during the turmoil revolutionary periods, Tujia soldiers always surpassed the rest during the epic march.

Adult Trial (Come-of-Age Test)

When a Tujia boy turns 14-year-old, he will face the most severe survival trial in life. Her parents will expel him from home to the remote mountains. He will bring nothing but the iron used for weighing his weight after he was born. He can make it into a knife, dagger or sword. During the three years, he needs to depend on himself. No one will come to his rescue or take pity on him. Some of them will starve to death; some will get poisoned by fruits or eaten by animals, some lucky few will be adopted by a sorcerer as monks and some really tough ones will come back home, safely. The last kind will be treated as adults and revered as heroes. It could be the most unbelievable thing we can apprehend or accept. However, for Tujia people, it is their timeworn belief and tradition. They need to fight for life desperately and they are not cowards in front of fate and destiny.


Rumors had it that Tujia women can release poisonous gas, which is deadly to human beings, animals and even plants. As to its original, there is a story. During the past, when the local Tujia men left home to prosperous cities, they fell in love with other women and brought them home. Their wives, who waited years for their beloved husbands lonely and loyally, were overtaken by such unfair treatment, so they planned to seek revenge. They put a tank filled with delicious food in the courtyard to attract snakes, scorpions and centipedes to feast. When the tank is filled with enough poisonous captives, they will seal it with a stone for a whole month. With nothing to eat, these insects and animals will eat each other. In the end, this is only one left. After feeding on so many poisonous rivals, the last survival will be kept as a pet by Tujia women, which will be feed with insects and menstruation blood. At due time, Tujia women will eat this pet. To avoid dying from poison, she needs to release poisonous gas from time to time by touching the person and things she hates. Those touched by her will decay slowly and die. She will do this in a secret way, but sooner or later, she will be discovered and isolated by the rest.

Gan Shi (Walking the Corpses Home)

Western Hunan province, known as Xiangxi in Chinese, is mystified by the already distinct sorcery of Gan Shi which once prevailed during Qing dynasty. This sensational custom immortalized by many movies, will make your hairs stand on end. During the past, many Tujia soldiers died in other provinces during war. Poor traffic coupled with hilly topography make it the most formidable task to bring their bodies home. Tima, their sorcerer, came to their rescue. Legend has it that during the past there is an exclusive path amid the mountainous area of Hunan reserved for Gan Shi, along which numerous guesthouses dot. Tima works during night and sleeps in daytime. He will plaster fruits and vegetable oil to the corpses first, then, he will wrap up them with white cotton fabric. When the Tima chant the first spell, these corpses will stand up, the second spell will bring them into motion. How the Tima can preserve and walk these dead bodies for over a month remains a mystery, for the last Tima was killed during cultural revolution.
tujia people ganshi witchcraft
tujia people ganshi witchcraft
tujia people ganshi witchcraft

Tujia people’s Martial Art: Blade-Ax Magical Kungfu

Thanks to Jack Chen, I bet you have heard of or even been fascinated by Kung Fu. In Zhangjiajie, do not miss Tujia people’s Kung Fu show. You will see a well-built Tujia man sleep on the floor. Above him three reinforced cement concrete slabs and eight stout men weighing one thousand kilogram in total are placed. This is not a stunt, sorcery, trick or magic. This mind-blowing performance is named Blad-Ax Magical KungFu. The following performance involves three performers is even more thrilling. A man sleeps on broken glasses. A plank perched with six sharp blades point upwards will be placed on his belly to support a second man. The second man, whose belly placed with a plank interspersed with snails, will support a third man. The most marvelous part is than none will get hurt.

Chenzhou Spell

Tujia people have mastered a secret skill named Chenzhou Spell, those who have mastered it will be invincible. They can trample on the fires or ladders whose steps are made of blades and wont get hurt.
Author: Sophia   Posted on May29 , 2013


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