The Stillbirth of The Commune-Head: The Social Change on Beliefs in a Floral-belt Dai Community


Each Floral-belt Dai village has a male “Commune-head” who take charge of annual collective ceremonies as “Village Sacrifice” and “Village Exorcism”. These are purification rituals and fete for the village’s god “Buzhaoshe”. Besides, there’s a “Village’s Chief Witch” who’s responsible for communication with the god through trance. This man and woman compose the traditional hierarchy of a Dai village. The Commune-head is picked out through a God election ritual. Every adult man of the village offers a clothes and a bowl of rice to the ritual. A presider weighs all candidates’ clothes with a steelyard. With rice putting in or out the clothes, he makes all clothes balanced. Then he prays to the god Buzhaoshe, and weighs the clothes again. This time some clothes turn heavier. The heaviest one enables its owner to be the new Commune-head. This is an old custom of the Dai people which lasts thousands years. But this year we witnessed an unprecedented challenge in the Areca Village. Through the ritual of several days, all chosen ones refused to become Commune-head desperately. The ritual could not be fulfilled in a panic. Villagers disputed over the situation. Powers conflict in this gambling. In the following days, villagers provided four solutions. Among which emerges the tension between tradition and new culture, folk belief and government agents. Days later, Areca Village held a full member gathering, in which villagers made their decision through “voice voting”. Two months later, in the Reelecting of the Village Committee, the old mayor of the village was voted out. A year later, the new mayor made nice to conciliate the tradition power. New balance was established over odds. This becomes the epilogue of this documentary.

Region of Origin

Year of Release



80 minutes


HD, Color


Wu Qiao Thumbnail

Wu Qiao

Wu Qiao, Ph.D. from Peking University, anthropologist, Associate Professor of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Director of the Social Anthropology Department; research fields: Anthropology of Religion, Kinship study, Visual anthropology; ethnic groups studied: the Floral-belt Dai, the Na, the Daur and the Yao; scholarly monographs: Bones From Fathers: the kinship system of the Na along the Yangzi River(2009), Cosmology and Life-World: Kinship, Folk Belief and Oral Traditions of the Floral-belt Dai People(2011); Documentary: Trance beneath the Moonlight(2012), Stillbirth of the Commune-head(2015).