Song Jiang Battle Array 宋江陣
Perhaps not the most exciting or visually appealing of parade troupes, but interesting nonetheless, today Songjiang battle arrays are martial or military troupes 武術 or武 陣頭, rather than an arts troupe 藝術or藝陣頭. I’ve always imagined these troupes actually going to war, romantically (and usually tragically) battling the Japanese colonial authorities. According to Paul Katz, it seems that these were some of the most effective fighting troops in the Tapani battles because of their training and actual battle experience defending their villages. They would march into battle, beating drums and holding their banners high, believing they were immune to bullets and swords.
Nowadays it is purely performance , but I believe Song Jiang Zhen are more like troupes of old in that they are groups of farmers or believers that perform simply for kudos with the gods rather than professionally.(check this) Although competitions, especially the famous Neimen Soong Jiang Battle Array competition (內門宋江陣比賽) staged on Kuanyin’s birthday, involves substantial prizes.
Soong Jiang troupes are groups of at least ten members that perform martial arts at festivals, parades or competitions. Historically the number of performers would be 107 people, which has to do with ‘The Water Margin’s’ famous 108 brave warriors, which were probably the first Songjiang troupes, now 36 is a common number. Thirty-six is apparently a common number because of 三十六天罡 , or the 36 stars of the big dipper constellation which is some sort of Taoist precept. I don’t get the association but will add it if I ever figure it out. for more on (三十六天罡 and 七十二地煞go here, a little too esoteric for me).
In the pioneering days of Qing dynasty Taiwan, the Chinese officials were ineffective in protecting the people and preventing crime, which was rife. Village or clan groups formed martial groups from local youths to take protection/discipline matters into their own hands. during the Japanese Era, these groups were no longer needed (except to rebel against the sometimes stifling and exploitive colonial rule), and became purely a performance group.
The performance traditionally begins with a prayer to their 祖師爺, a patron god for occupations, in this case usually 田府元帥 (possibly from the spring/autumn warring states period) or 田都元帥 (patron god of actors and musicians), then with weapons held high, the troupe lets out a battle yell, called 發彩, and finishes in a similar manner.
The actual performances are characterized by the members, usually dressed in matching sweats, holding weapons, carrying banners, beating drums, battle yells and very involved choreography. Often one person will stand in the middle of the group and perform a solo of his/her martial arts.
Tools/weapons carried by members are mostly modified or unmodified farming tools. Some examples with links to a great online page are listed below, click on each for a full description. 道具(Stage props, I left a few out that were related exclusively to White crane Troupes which I have not written about yet): (雨傘, 謝籃, 頭旗), 兵器(Military Weapons): (藤牌, 官刀, 大刀, 三叉, 鉤仔, 躂刀, 齊眉棍, 牌刀, 雙刀, 雙斧, 藤牌, 耙, 雙鞭) and 樂器(Musical Instruments): (鈸, 鑼, 鑼棒, 宋江鼓, 宋江鼓棒.
This song jiang member has been possessed
Like most traditional troupe performances, there were many taboos members had to follow. Now, I suspect some are not rigidly adhered to. One such taboo has to do with numbers. Were there 108 performers they would risk getting injured, now it is doubtful whether 108 people would gather for a performance. Another is not being allowed to have five columns because of the homonymous characters 五 (wǔ) and 無 (wú), and a story in the ‘Water Margin.’
Called Dangki or spirit medium
He is probably doing some sort of spirit writing
He is actually part of 宋江三陣 or Song Jiang Three troupe, which is the original Songjiang, which spawned ‘Golden Lion’ and ‘White Crane.’
Questions: face paint,田府元帥, mostly professional or amateur, prizes for soong jiang competition in Neiman.
CHEN Yanzhong 陳彦仲 & HUANG Liru 黃麗如
2003 Taiwan de Yizhen (台灣的藝陣), p. 108(oooh, how appropriate is that?)-119. Taiwan dili Baike #35 (台灣地理百科#35). Walkers Cultural Print in Taiwan.