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Cradled in the most northeast part of Inner Mongolia, Aoluguya is possibly the coldest village of the country.
There dwell a tiny group of mysterious people who call themselves Shilu Ewenkis, which means the reindeer breeders of the Ewenks.
For hundreds of years they have only been known as successful reindeer herders, outstanding forest hunters, and shaman believers. It was not until recently when some of the mystique was finally unveiled for the world to see, by a play named after the Ewenk people's home, "Aoluguya."
For centuries, these pixies in the woods were shrouded by various legends and whispered tales, like how the tribe settled down in such a severe environment after a long period of migration? Why the barely 200 population tribe of today still holds onto their homeland and all the traditions? And why the last hunting minority in China regards reindeers as their best companion and takes animal worship as their religion?
The play is not an attempt to decode all the mysteries. It is more like a glimpse of the mysteries. During the process of urbanization and globalization, there is less chance to sit down and listen to the primitive people, yet they are perhaps the truest calling of our ancestors.
Taking the romance of the tribe's last female chieftain, Maria So, as its core, the play unwraps the Ewenki people's life, customs, art, and religion.
As animal worshipers, the Ewenki people feel most free to express themselves by imitating animals. They perform hazel grouse, crane, and reindeer in dancing, as well as in their singing. The long lost Shaman dance, a Chinese national-level intangible cultural heritage, is also reenacted on the stage.
The play is a refreshing experience to most of audience members, who are thrilled about what is presented before their eyes.
Audience, said, "The whole arrangement is fantastic! As a ethnic Han living in Beijing, I don't know much about the Ewenki culture and their spirits. I would like to buy some books and DVDs to complete my knowledge."
Audience, said, "I'm an ethnic Mongolian from West Inner Mongolia's Ordos. I've always been interested in the Ewenki people because they represent the forest culture, comparing to Mongolian's grassland tradition. The play is a very satisfying showcase."
Please don't wish for this show to simply be a profitable stage extravaganza, nor for Aoluguya to become the next hot tourist destination. The enigma of the indigenous group remains free and joyful because they know how to keep the balance with nature... that is, respect all the forest creatures and do minimal harm.
The first run of the play will be staged at Beijing's Poly Theatre until Sunday.