Dungan National Sports
Kazakhstan is a remarkably multiethnic country. Thus, regulating the interrelations of social groups as well as various kinds of communities is one of the issues. Concord is necessary for any kind of society, and it is particularly essential in polyethnic nations. The national and ethnic political idea of appreciation of ethnic-specific interests is widely represented in today’s society. Interethnic consent will provide stability. Thus, stability is a matter of interethnic relations as well as harmony in ethnic-specific development. The Kazakhstan 2030 Strategic Program by N. Nazarbayev seeks to foster national unity and friendship in Kazakhstan.
It is a common fact that over 130 ethnic groups are currently living in Kazakhstan, which has determined its demographic situation. The large-scale migration process that eventually shaped the polyethnic nation of Kazakhstan began when Russian and Ukrainian peasant started to settle in the Kazakh Land.
The first Dungan migration to Kazakhstan began in December 1877. About 4 thousand Dungan people fleeing Chinese punitive actions arrived in Zhetysu. Byi Yan Hu was the leader of the first Dungan immigrant wave. The second wave took place in 1884.
The Dungans opted for detached settling within a specified territory. Therefore, the majority of the new settlers found their new home in Verniy and Zharkent, Zhetysu. The reason why the two nationalities have maintained close contacts must be their similar traditions and shared nomadic past. If we compare the Kazakh culture, customs, and even superstition with those of the Dungans, we will find a number of similarities. In this respect, it is reasonable to compare Dungan and Kazakh sports.
The Dungans’ national sports are part of their image.
In general, there are numerous Dungan sports meant for both children and adults. Most of them are not merely entertaining but contribute to people’s mental, physical, and cognitive harmony.
Young children, especially girls, play with dolls called faguner, be zhyazhyar. They are cotton-filled textile dolls; in summer, corn ears are used to make doll hair. Broken crockery can be used to treat guests. Naturally, children copy adults’ manner of socializing.
Ge bynbyn means “the game of making thread figures.” The game is meant for adults as well as children. Children need a thread 90-110 cm long, while adults need one 150-160 cm long. They tie the thread ends together. Several players can participate, though the traditional number of participants is two. The one who fails to make a figure loses. The game starts the following way: the threat with its ends tied together is wrapped around each hand; the player uses his middle fingers to pull the loop around their hands to get the ma tso, which means horse feeder. The second player is to turn it into kuezy, that is, food sticks. Kuezy turns into dynio, that is, suspended feeder, which turns into nyu nyanshin - cow eyes, etc. Draw is also possible. The players can remake certain figures. When the shyuzy, or the saw figure, is made, the game ends, as the figure is believed to indicate draw.
Ge bynbyn is extremely popular with Dungan girls. Boys participate too. The game is still played in Dungan villages in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Schuazyr, which means pebble catching, is popular with Dungan girls. It is similar to our bestas game (five stones). You need five round pebbles no larger than a pigeon egg. The game includes several tricks – dan zyr, schyuafon (double catching), schyua san (triple catching), schyua san-ii (three-one catching), man ba schua sy (half-catching), schyua sa zyr (catching pebbles scattered around), etc.
To perform dan zyr, the player throws a pebble up and pick the rest one by one. The pebble thrown up should be caught while the last one is being picked up. If the pebble falls down, player two starts to play. The player who performs all the tricks faster wins.
While zhua zyr was a very popular girls’ entertaining game, ti schyanzy (lyanga) is greatly admired by boys and young men. According to old Dungan men, even adults used to arrange competitions in it. The game includes several tricks. It is also our national sport.
Kicking the shuttlecock with one foot is called dan; kicking it with two feet is called fon; kicking and jumping is called lyo, and the most complicated tricks include ta, ti, and zhyan. One who could perform all the tricks before the shuttlecock fell on the ground was considered an expert. While playing, people counted the number of kicks aloud.
Ti schyanzy was so popular among the Dungans of Semirechye that the Russian community of that region adopted it under the Dungan name of lyonga. Today, Kazaks, especially schoolchildren play it too.
Da modan, or lapta, was a group Dungan game. The players formed two equal teams and drew lots. One of the teams served, and the other one played. Captains were chosen to arrange the game. Under the rules of the game, the captain was entitled to three blows, while the rest were only entitled to one. Each player could only play after running away from the line and returning to the playing spot. If the serving team hit a player with a ball or the captain failed to hit the ball “with his last hand”, the teams switched. The game was mostly played in spring, while preparing to crop sowing.
Gan lo nyu, which is translated as old cow drive, and da bity were popular with Dungan children, especially boys.
Gan lo nyu players make a circle of 4-5 steps in diameter and hold sticks. In the center of the circle, they make a pit for a cow bone dib. Each player is to dig a small round pit to put an end of his stick into it. Players draw lots to choose the one to drive the “old cow”, that is, the dib, away from the central pit. The “driver” starts by hitting the dib to move it towards any player and take his place. Players can hit the dib in any direction. One who fails to put his stick in his pit after hitting the dib loses. The game is still played, though a hockey puck or a tin is used instead of the bone dib.
Da bigiy, or the game of asyk, is one of the most popular pre-Revolution Dungan games, though is still played in certain areas. There were certain rules according to which it was played. Elderly Dungans tell that even adults often indulged in it. Different neighborhoods or families would compete in it in Dungan settlements. The loser teams were to give their asyks to the winner. The game is now forgotten.
The Dungans often play san yon var. It is a game for two smart and shrewd players. They dig 7 or 9 pits and place 9 pebbles in each. Each layer chooses a pit and puts each of the pebbles remaining into each remaining pit. The one who has the biggest number of pebbles in his pit wins.
Checkers, or dyu fon, has been extremely popular with Dungans. Many fans are eager to attend competitions. According to the Dungan people who provided the information, the latter used to be quite frequent. The best players of a village or a settlement used to visit other places to play. Sometimes grave misunderstandings happened because of the game, resulting in feud. People say that one’s style in dyu fon indicates one’s temper.
What made the game so attractive was its being simple and cheap. You can play it in or outdoors, practically anywhere. You need pebbles of two colors or small clay lumps; cane sticks about 5 cm long, and a chequered field drawn on the ground.
There are two ways to play the game. The first is chon fon, which means “a long and peaceful game”, and the other is called synsy da duan, that is, “a brief game to win”.
The basic styles are chi dar fon, which is seven line game, and shyu dar fon, that is, nine line game. The Dungans have mostly preferred chi dar fon.
Chi dar fon players draw a square divided by seven horizontal and seven vertical lines and prepare their stones. Some aficionados always carry their stones. After drawing lots, one of the players began to place his figures on the squares. The player who begins has one stone more, but his opponent is entitled to take two of the beginning player’s stones away after the latter has placed them. The player seeks to occupy the center of the field. After the preparation, the players start taking each other’s stones away. It is just one of the variants. We should say that the Dungan draughts is a game of skill, concentration, and accurate prognosis. The Dungans of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan still play their national game dyu fon.
In times gone by, the Dungans used to go kiting in spring. The activity was called fon fynzy. Dungan experts used to make kites of every shape. For instance, the well-respected old Nasyr Lokhan from Kant Disrict was known to be good at making sophisticated kites called vukun (centipede), Ba von (Prince Ba with a banner), and lun (dragon). Dinbar and Yu. Losy from Zharkent were famous for their national kites. In late autumn, they began to make preparations, while women made special hemp thread for the most sophisticated ones.
According to elderly Dungans, many experts used specially designed bamboo tubes to choose the perfect moment for flying their kites. They put one end of a bamboo tube 20-25 cm long into the ground, put some bird down into it, and waited for the down to escape the tube. When it did, they believed it to be the right time for flying the kite.
It is possible to buy paper kites in some Dungan settlements in early spring.
Dungan kites come in numerous shapes and styles, namely mynlyr (door curtain), sykuar (square), malar (dragonfly), bagar (parrot), khuter (butterfly), Ba von (Prince Ba with a banner on his back), vukun (centipede), lun (dragon), etc.
Fin fynzy, hat is, kiting, was a festive activity to entertain Dungan peasants before spring fieldwork at the beginning of a hard year.
National Dungan wrestling was a popular festive activity in pre-revolution communities. According to elderly Dungans, wrestlers wore short belted jackets and short baggy trousers. During competitions, wrestlers could grab each other by the jacket and perform foot sweeps. In this respect, Dungan wrestling resembles freestyle, though wrestlers must stand all the time. If a wrestler touches the ground in three places or anywhere above the knee, he loses.
Apart from this wrestling style, the Dungans practice shyan gunku and vushy dechuan. They can be classified into five groups: 1) head skill, 2) finger skill, 3) fist skill, 4) upper body skill, and 5) leg skill. Dungans tell that people used to teach children and young man efficient self-defense and attacking techniques. Some of the techniques were kept in secret.
Living in the Kazakh Land, the Dungans adopted some Kazakh games and entertainments, such as ala-man-bayge (horseracing), dyo yon (traditional type of horse race), and fa yozy de iyn (falcon or erne hunt).
Many national Dungan sport games resemble those of the Kazakhs, since both nations used to be nomadic.