History of Teochew Traditional Dances
Different Types of Teochew Dances
Cloth-Horse Dance performed in front of the Historical Teochew City-Gate
The Thenghai Sai Mung Village Centipede Dance (澄海西門蜈蚣舞)
The Thenghai Kirin Dance (澄海麒麟舞)
and the Thenghai Double Fighting Geese (澄海雙咬鵝舞)
One Dance That Rules Them All
Due to the historical background by which each of these dance came about, their performances are limited to specific localities. However there is one exception - Eng Go Bhu (英歌舞) that is popular across Pholeng (普寧), Teo-yor (潮陽) and Huilai (惠来) counties, as well as the latter's adjacent Log Hong (陆丰) district outside Teochew.
Performed by collective groups in set numbers of 16, 36, 72 or 108, this dance involves the clapping of short-sticks in hand and movement of feet according to rhythm to create different formations. Tempo varies the version of the dance, from slow, medium to fast. The Teochew big drum is sometimes beaten in the background to add to the effect.
Not least because of the fascinating energetic and coordinated movements of its participants, the Eng Go Bhu is also a sight to behold as its dancers all have painted faces and are dressed according to the 108 heroic renegades found in the classic Chinese novel Water Margin (水滸傳). The leader of dance plays the enigmatic character Shi Qian (時遷) and he holds a cloth-snake - the snake being historical the totem of the people in the Teochew and Fujian regions.
The Eng Go Bhu apparently re-enacts a scene in the Water Margin (攻打大名府), where its main characters banded together to attack an government office in Beijing. A documentary produced by China's CCTV several years ago observed that the Eng Go Bhu formations are in fact the tactical formations used by armies in the past and the movement of the sticks mimic how farm tools are held when used as weapons. It further asserted that the Eng Go Bhu was created about 300 years ago, by leaders of the clandestine anti-Qing Heaven and Earth Society (also known as the triad) as a means to secretly train their recruits in martial arts and fighting.
Even if this is true, the Eng Go Bhu has today become a cultural representation of the Teochew people's commune spirit. Knowledge of the dance is now being passed down in villages from fathers to sons, as well as daughters. In recent years it has also been performed overseas in places where Teochew communities thrive, to rapturous cheers, and it is not difficult to see why.
Eng Go Bhu performance as part of public celebrations in a town in Teo-yor
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