[Video] Yingge, 'Heroes’ Song': China’s ancient warrior dance

With painted faces and elaborate costumes, Yingge (英歌) performers stride and dance with power and vigour to the rhythmic beat of pounding drums. The fusion of opera, dance and martial arts culminates in an artistically distinct performance that is a part of China’s intangible cultural heritage.
A close-up shot of a Yingge performer in Puning, China, on 17 February 2024. (Screen grab from Anadolu Agency)
A close-up shot of a Yingge performer in Puning, China, on 17 February 2024. (Screen grab from Anadolu Agency)

Originating from the Chaoshan region over 300 years ago, Yingge is performed during festive seasons to celebrate triumph over evil. Once all-male troupes, Yingge groups now consist of a diverse group of performers. Dancers step out dressed as one of the 108 formidable heroes from the Ming dynasty novel Water Margin. Among them stands the character “Shi Qian”, leader of the troupe. The "snake" he wields stems from an ancient ritual performed to ward off evil spirits and epidemics. Hence, Yingge remains popular in post-Covid China. 


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