The Shui ethnic group live mainly in the mountainous area of south-western Guizhou Province. With a population of 350,000, the Shui people entertain themselves by beating drums, singing and dancing. Not only does this serve as a past-time, but it is also their own unique way of welcoming guests.
For the Shui people, the bronze drum is a symbol of wealth and power. Whenever there is a holiday or a ceremony, the Shui will dance according to the rhythm of the drum. Every March in the lunar year, a "bronze drum festival" is held. People will dress in their best clothes, blow reed-pipes, and beat drums. During the day, bullfighting and singing competitions are held. At night, a campfire will be lit and people will beat drums and dance around the bonfire.
Sandu is the capital of the autonomous county of the Shui ethnic group. It is a quiet and peaceful town, nestled on a mountain. In the past, the major crop of the area was rice. But because of its isolation, no real economic development took place. People were poor. Recently however, the central government has put a lot of attention on developing the west. It has called on its eastern provinces to help the ethnic minorities in the mountainous west. Since 1996, Shenzhen, a developed city in the southeast of China, has offered generous help in the development of Sandu. Within the last two years, Sandu has rid itself of poverty. Now, newly built roads and installed telephone lines have greatly facilitated the local people’s contacts with each other and the outside world.
Sandu is rich in its natural resources. Forty-five percent of the county is covered by forest. Its rare mineral resources, as well as its abundance of water, make it suitable for future development. Its beautiful scenery and unique folk customs also ensure a profitable tourist industry.
As more and more contact is made with the outside world, people's traditional concepts are changing. Nowhere is this more evident than with the improved status of women. Yang Haiyan, a female official in Sandu County, says that in the past, the social position of Shui women was very low. But it has improved significantly today.
"In the past, Shui women were subjugated. They had little opportunities of going to school. But now education for girls is no longer a problem. Parents pay more attention to their children's education, both girls and boys. And primary education is free for the children of ethnic minorities."
(cri.com.cn July 25, 2002)