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Local folk art troupes

Neimen is known as the home of folk art troupes, with a very high density of folk art troupes. Everyone in the community practiced martial arts when they were growing up. We can even say that it is a town of msartial arts. All the battle arrays in the community have a long history and traditions, making them an important part of Taiwan’s efforts to preserve our folk culture.

The Dragon Battle Array of the Persimmon Garden performs the stories selected from "The Four Travel Journals". Only in Neimen will you have the opportunity to see such a grant performance.

The Dragon Battle Array of the Persimmon Garden in Neimen is the only folk art troupe that performs the story selected from the Chinese classics, "The Four Travel Journals". At its peak time, over 100 members will perform together in the array, making it a super array in Neimen. Every time they perform, members take turns to perform the dragon battle array and Song Jiang Battle Array. It is spectacular. "The Four Travel Journals" refer to "Journey to the East", "Journey to the South", "Journey to the North" and the famous "Journey to the West". In the four novels, one can find stories about Avalokiteśvara saving people; hence, the folk art troupes use these stories in their performances to show their respect for Avalokiteśvara.

During the preparation process, experts will be invited to examine the fengshui of each site; hence, the Eight-trigram Battle Array in the Song Jiang battle array performed by "The Dragon Battle Array of the Persimmon Garden" differs every time. During the performance, Monk Pig in "The Journey to the West" will jump onto the altar table and take some fruits. An interesting and lively performance is one of the biggest features of The Dragon Battle Array of the Persimmon Garden in Neimen.

Jiameilin's Song Jiang Lion Array: The world-class folk art troupe from Taiwan

Jiameilin's Song Jiang Lion Array has a very long history. One can even say that this troupe is one of the oldest folk art troupes in Rouhan Gate. Jiameilin is a remote village in Neimen District with only 20 households. To build Shennong Temple, the villagers made a wish to the Taoist deity Shennong to establish a Song Jiang lion array and all the revenue earned through the performances of the lion array would be used to build the Temple. Thus, even today, the villagers continue the tradition to perform the lion array for the temple.

Jiameilin's Song Jiang Lion Array is always practiced at the plaza in front of Shennong Temple; it is considered a folk art troupe dedicated to the Taoist deity Shennong. Among all the weapons used in the performance, the axes are the most eye-catching. The masters often use the axes to portrait the role of legendary Li Kuei (nicknamed Black Whirlwind). Today, the masters also teach their own children to play the role. Jiameilin's Song Jiang Lion Array preserves the tradition with strong religious belief; the team has performed abroad many times. It is often referred to as a world-class folk art troupe from Taiwan.

Heng Shan Song Jiang Battle Array: Genuine Battle Array from the Pingpu Tribe

There are a total of 20 teams of the Song Jiang battle array in Neimen. Among the 20 teams, the most representative ones are three Pingpu Song Jiang battle array teams formed by plains aborigines, namely:Hengshan Song Jiang Battle Array, Maobu Song Jiang Battle Array and Shihkeng Song Jiang Battle Array. Because the founder was often referred to as "Master Fanzai", these teams are also known as Fanzai Song Jiang.

Unlike Song Jiang battle arrays performed by the Han people that focus on using drum and gong to create the lively atmosphere, Pingpu Song Jiang are subtle and solemn, and the battle arrays somehow create an atmosphere that is unnerving. The formation of the battle array also imitates the ancestors' squat movement when they hunted Formosan sika deer, which shows us a different aspect of plains aboriginal culture.

Compared with the other Pingpu teams, Hengshan Song Jiang Battle Array has more “wow” factors. The history of Hengshan Song Jiang Battle Array can be traced back to the Ching dynasty when local men established a team to defend the local community. During the Japanese colonial period, to show their gratitude towards Avalokiteśvara, the team was transformed into Hengshan Song Jiang Battle Array and today, this team followsAvalokiteśvara as the Holy Palanquin travels around the Island.

Jhongbutou Song Jiang Lion Array: A Unique Lion Array

Jhongbutou Song Jiang Battle Array is comprised of team members who play the various characters in the book "Outlaws of the Marsh", and all the members need to wear facial makeup. It is a very traditional Song Jiang battle array. Another one is Siaozaili is Neibu. Traditionally, all the characters in a Song Jiang battle array are played by men; even female characters are played by men. However, Jhongbutou Song Jiang Battle Array broke the traditionwith three female members in the team. Even though they are young, they have learned to perform well. Their facial makeup and their motions enable them to reflect the traits of each character.

Jhongbutou Song Jiang Battle Array is also known for its unique technique of "healing the lion". To pay tribute to the deity BaoshengDadi who saved a lot of lives, the team will perform the technique when they bring the dying "lion" back to life. This is unique among traditional lion arrays.

JhongbuBizaici Song Jiang Lion Array: The Auspicious Yellow Flag and the Black-Faced Lion

The JhongbuBizaici Song Jiang Lion Array is known for its traditional eight-trigram battle array steps, the yellow flags in their hands and the black-faced lion. There are only two black-faced lions in Neimen, one in JhongbuBizaici Song Jiang Lion Array and the other one is in Jhongbutou Song Jiang Lion Array. The JhongbuBizaici Song Jiang Lion Array uses the black-faced lion with the yellow flag because black and yellow are the auspicious colors of the emperor, which makes the team very rare.

To show the original Song Jiang battle array, JhongbuBizaici Song Jiang Lion Array used bamboo to build their sculptures of weapons. The director also planted cosmos flowers around the hall; he did everything himself, from planting the seeds to watering the plants. Director Li Wunruei said that it is not difficult to learn how to perform the Song Jiang Battle Array, all you need is devotion.

With the Honor of "Emperor's Student", FanziluTaipingge (Songs for Peaceful Time) are sung all the time for peace

"Emperor's Student" is the highest honor that can be granted for any songs or folk art troupes. One of the founders of the folk art troupe, JhengYuanhe, sang songs to earn money as he traveled from his hometown to the capital to take the exam for government officials. His songs gradually became very popular, and he also passed the exam to become an important government official. After he passed away, he was given the honorific of "Emperor's Student" by the Emperor.

Most of the songs sung by Jheng are about loyalty and filial piety. He sang the songs accompanied by clapping, and also added familiar stories about ordinary people. In the past, popular songs by ordinary people were often considered to lack sufficient elegance to be performed in front of the Emperor. However, starting from Jheng, the songs originally sung by ordinary peoplewere gradually changed from civic songs to today's Taipingge (Songs for Peaceful Time).

HutoushanCilisiang: The Love Stories of Ordinary People

The Cilisiang array of Hutoushan is performed by three junior high school students who tell the stories of love and jealousy, quarreling and forgiveness. With the traditional tempo of Cilisiang, the audience will be transported into the worlds of various love stories, such as the "Butterfly Lovers".

The music of Cilisiangusually uses string instruments. Pay attention to the old lady who takes her grandson with her to perform in the Cilisiang array of Hutoushan. The kid may be young, but he knows what he is doing. It is very important for families to maintain the traditions in Neimen. A grandmother teaches her grandson the skills of playing the string instruments. A father teaches his son how to play the various roles in the performance. Dancing and singing are part of their daily lives; hence, they can always perform well to impress the audience.

Jinmaliao Plough Array: Plough Array Performance for a Good Harvest

Jinmaliao Plough Array is located in Nanhua, Tainan. They worship the same Avalokiteśvara as NeimenZihjhu Temple, so this array is also considered an array dedicated to the Avalokiteśvara. The team also follows the Avalokiteśvara as the Holy Palanquin travels around the island. The legends state that a local plough array is necessary for farmers to have good harvest.

Jinmaliao Plough Array was originally established by a performer of the Taiwanese Opera to promote theater, and the group later became the plough array. All the songs sung by the Plough Array are about the simple life in agricultural villages. These popular and easy-to-understand songs talk about farming and the love between farmers. The most eye-catching couple is the funny old couple who always make the audience laugh with their wonderful performance.

Folk art troupe vs. battle array
There are many different types of arrays. Some are performed for religious rituals, some for theater and musical performance, and some with acrobatics. However, most arrays can be divided into two functions: one is a religious ritual to expel evil and the other one is to bring joy and happiness to the group. Usually, the first type is known as the battle array (Song Jiang Battle Array, lion battle array and the eight generals) and folk art troupe (Nanguan, Beiguan, the song of spring plow and traditional Taiwanese melodies.)

In the early days, battle arrays often competed with each other and even fought with each other, but today, all the competitions and exchanges are ritualistic. As the battle array teams no longer need to compete with each other, each team has developed its own unique features, so the audience can see the beauty of traditional folk art.