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Peasants’ Farming Life and Rice-transplanting Drum: Far Far Away 09-05-26

  Reported by Du Peiqing and Song Zhiqiang (


  If you are not singing when transplanting rice seedlings, there will be many barnyard grasses in paddy lands.

  On May 23rd, it drizzled and at the edge of Xiafan fields, the Stone Gate Village, some people were playing the Rice-transplanting Drum. Along with the loud, silvery drum and exciting, powerful song, 7 people who were transplanting rice seedlings stood in a row in the paddy field and did their jobs competitively. We could only hear the “Shua Shua Shua” of water sound. Just for a while, there were many green lines in the paddy field.


  Xian Kanglian who is 84 years old is the most famous drum player in Stone Gate Village. We can quote the 77-year-old Xia Wanwu’s words that although Xia is over 80 years old, his voice, tone, tune is pretty upright when singing mountain songs.

  In Xia Kanglian’s home, we have seen the ancestral drum. The shape of the drum is much alike with today’s square waist drum but a little smaller. The body of the drum is made of bamboo and both sides of the drum heads are made of cowhide. With nearly more than ten bamboo nails driving, its nail trail looks like quincunx or wave dealt very carefully and looks pretty nice. The drum trail is hooped with bamboo splint and both sides of drum body are set iron hoops with red ribbon so that people can place it on breast. While singing, the drum player takes wooden shaft in the right hand and supports the bottom of the drum by the left hand. He can adjust different music when he coordinates his fingers.

  Xia Kanglian inherited the drum from his father and it has a history of more than 100 years. His father was also a drum player so that both Xia Kanglian and his brother could play mountain drum, sing folk songs and god songs with the influence of their father.

  Concerning the customs of playing Rice-transplanting Drum, there is an old saying in folk custom that “rice seedlings can not sprout unless hearing the sound of gong and drum”. Xia Kanglian said what matters most in playing Rice-transplanting Drum is to animate the labor atmosphere which works as adding fun, encouragement and relieve their fatigue.

  The lyric of Rice-transplanting Drum and god songs are the same in form that both lyrics have a fixed pattern. Usually there are 8 horns in a day. In the morning, they sing rhyme of “lai”, “lang”. At noon, they sing rhyme of “zhong”. In the lunchtime, they sing rhyme of “xiao”, “lian”, “suo”. After work, they sing rhyme of “xi”. After that, they sing fast twisters. When fast twisters finished, they laud the gnome to pray for fine weather and abundant harvest. Then they sing exhortatory song “GeMa Immortal”. In the end they flatter and bless the owner of the field and paste granary.


  Rice-transplanting Drum is very popular in the 1950s to 1960s during the large collective production. Since household production system has been carried out, villagers planting respectively and playing Rice-transplanting Drum, singing folk sons are rare. What we can see now is also a section of performance without great momentum and particular and strict ceremony. We can only know many details through the description from the old people.

  The first day of transplanting rice seeds is called “open seedlings’ door”. In the past, villagers would hold complex ceremony, but it hardly exists now. When pulling seedlings, people will sing the “pulling seedlings” song:

  “Early in the morning

  During sunrise driving horse go through the bridge

  During sky bright driving horse though the bridge

  The horse tail twine your waist when wind passing by”

  When pulling seedlings is finished, the peasants shoulder a bundle of seedlings to the edge of field and spread them one by one in the field equaled. Before the master singer begins to tap the drum, peasants transplanting rice seedlings stand in a row in the paddy field. At this time, the master singer Xia Kanglian taps the drum standing on the field ridge of the paddy field and starts to sing “open seedling’s door”.

  “A hillock of seedlings are transplanted in field in front of the door,

  Move the pond when the crops are full of leaves

  Sister wants to marry when the crops are red

  Send the sister to Hanyang River

  The brother watches the grange in the house…”

  When the drum is tapped, the peasants stoop to transplant rice seedlings. They divide seedlings with their left hand and transplanted with the right one. With thumb, forefinger and middle finger holding seedlings, they transplant them in the field and pulled out hands. Then they stepp back to leave the distance of a line and did it again in another line. All peasants in the field like to be linked by a chain that one chased after another and stooped to step back.

  Xia Kanglian’s voice is hoarse and sonorous. That singing that crosses mountain with great rural simplicity and purity makes the land of stone gate village more ancient and miraculous.

  After the song “open seedling’s door”, master singer and boy singer transplant seedlings in the field singing the head of the song together:

  “When the sun rise,

  The sunshine bathes street in gold color,

  The sunshine covers street in gold hue,

  I’m waiting for the man until the dew dries.

  Master singer on the field ridge sang two sentences and boy singer transplanting seedlings in the paddy field answered two sentences. It’s interesting to hear them echoed each other.

  After the head of the song, they begin to sing the folk songs which have a “lang” rhyme and bring in some lyrics of other rhymes. They mainly sing operas or just improvise to entertainment each other. When master singer finishes one rhyme, boy singers will answer “Ohehe” together. Because Stone Gate Village borders on Chongyang, so there are also some teacher singers and boy singers singing Twin Lotuses, a folk narrative poem. Such as:

  “There is a fine weather in April

  Going out with fishing rod in hand

  Fishing under the Sanyuan harbor

  Active fish jump and wave flow

  Slightly put down the fishing hurdle…”

  When some peasants are tired, they will straight up their waists to rest in the case of answering songs. Some masters can answer fluently while transplanting seedlings. During the process of transplanting rice seedlings, peasants chase after each other so that they wouldn’t fall behind others. One would be in a “cage” mischievously if he falls behind. That person cannot go on nor step back. He would not only be laughed at by other people but also be covered with sposh which is called “paste bin gate”. At this time, that person needs to sing “trapped in the cage” to beg for mercy:

  “Singing when trapped in the cage

  There are no other choices

  Singing better out of the cage

  One man transplants a seedling

  Another man transplants one more


  There is often a fixed lyric for Lauding Gnome and it also has improvisation mainly begging the gnome to bless the world. What the most interesting in Rice-transplanting Drum are singing fast twister and exhortatory song “Gema Immortal”.

  Fast twister is equal to the tongue twister now which is short but on the rhyme. The boy singer singing fast twisters needs one who is articulate so that he can finish over 10 lyrics. It is Xia Zhiming, Xia Kanglian’s brother that is singing the fast twisters. He sings with a bundle of seedlings in the left hand and his voice is like fried beans. Only hearing “pa pa pa” sounds that 12 fast twisters are finished like shooting which gains appreciation from others outside the field.

  “Gema Immortal” is a narrative poem about a rural rogue who didn’t pay back money and suffered punishment. The poem has 89 lines, it’s humorous and it makes people laugh with tears and inspires people. When singing the climax, people in the field or out will laugh happily, so the strained atmosphere of labor competition is released. 

  After “Gema Immortal”, they are going to finish transplanting rice seedlings and master singer begins to bless the owner of the field. At this time, peasants transplanting seedlings gather towards the owner’s house and paste mud on the owner’s and other peasants’ face and body which is called “paste granary”. They celebrate the work of transplanting seedlings and bless the owner a harvest in autumn by this way.

  Rice-transplanting Drum is like wild flowers in the field which send out warm rural flavor, simple and sweet temperament. So it can be called the “spring snow” of “popular literature”.

咸宁市人民政府主办 咸宁日报社承办
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