Trees, Flowers, and Love Songs

Pure and Noble Lotus Flowers

"Food and love are all natural lusts of people": this is a famous comment made by the Chinese Saint, Confucius, regarding people's basic needs. In the history, human beings experienced drastic changes from group marriage to monogamy in the aspect of love matter. There are some records in a literary works of the Dai people regarding such changes, and we can see traces the earliest love about human beings from such works. The "Song of Spouses" says: "Listen! Listen to me. Birds are in pairs, grasses can produce flowers and fruits; monkeys have wives, turtle doves have husbands; they love each other, and raise children together; therefore, the forests become prosperous because of them". Of course, such "spouses" must occur after human beings have gotten rid of the collection and hunting life styles in the forest, i.e. the time described in the "Creation Poem" of the Dai people. At that time, human beings began to "establish villages and build houses; people are no longer afraid of heavy storms and high winds; they plant wild melons by digging in the earth, and their offspring no longer migrate aimlessly". 

The Poem Festival of the Yi People 
on February the 8th

If the young men and young women of the Dai people love each other, mostly they communicate with each other through love songs. The most traditional places for singing such songs include the village square, larger spaces such as a playground or under big trees. The girls will come in groups, the campfire is on in the middle, and each group will occupy a place as their front. Some girls may hide a small stool under their tight skirt. Young men will play or blow some musical instruments and sing love songs to the girls. If a girl is moved by the songs of a lad, she will take out her stool and ask the lad to sit down; then, they will begin to talk about love matters. Since singing is a necessary condition for a young man to win the fond hearts of young girls, the Dai children always begin to learn singing at very early age; singing is an important "lesson" in their life, and this is why many Dai folks are good singers. 

The most outstanding feature of the Dai folks' ballads is "to sing what they see, and to sing what they want". Then, what do they sing in their love songs? They introduce to each other, praise the other side and express their love. Since the Dai folks come from tropical rain forests and live amidst the forests up to the present, their praises for the other party and their imageries for themselves mostly use the special features and characters of flowers and trees. In "Zhao Shu Tun", the prince compares the princess, Nan Wu Nuo Na, to "a piece of pink flower", and describes himself as "a bee"; while the princess wishes the prince "like a cocoanut tree, which is tall and deeply rooted". In the love songs of the Dai people, young men often compare girls to flowers, and the flowers include lotus flower, jasmine, and gardenia etc. Some flowers are used to describe girls with special merits. For example, the flowers of "Suolapi" are bright and fragrant, and they are mainly used to praise beautiful girls; the flowers of "Gaishuang" are white and sweet, and are mostly used to praise girls with a kind heart; the flowers of "Muluo" are small, white and fragrant, and are mainly used to praise chaste girls. The girls like to praise their loved young men as tall trees, such as the tall and upright council tree, banyan trees with verdant leaves and branches, tall coconut trees or red cotton silk trees etc. If a young man and a young woman fall in love, they will vow solemnly. "I am the lotus flower, and you are the lotus root"; "the roots of flowers always keeping with soil, and never part with each other"; or "we are like two golden melons growing on the same vine" etc. Among all the flowers, a Dai lad will never use the cotton rose hibiscus to speak about the girl he loves. This is because cotton rose flowers are white in the morning, pink at noon, and red in the evening; the flower changes its color so frequently within one day. Only when a lad is in deep lovelorn, he might use such a flower to mock the girl who changes her mind.