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Introduction & Highlights

The Wooden Drum Festival is an annual celebration of the Wa ethnic minority in Yunnan Province named after the most sacred musical instruments of the Wa people, the wooden drum.

The event centers around the heartfelt singing and vigorous dancing of the Wa people to the powerful pulse of the wooden drums, reflecting the history, traditions, folklore and culture of the Wa people.

The festival features three main activities: making and pulling wooden drums, the Wooden Drum Dance and making sacrifice to the wooden drums.

The Wooden Drum Dance is a folk dance practiced by the Miao, Li and Wa ethnic groups in southwest Yunnan. During sacred ceremonies they dance to the powerful, incessant beat of wooden drums that have been cut from tree trunks and hollowed out. The Wooden Drum Dance is part of ancient sacrificial rites based on ancestor worship and reverence for nature.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Wa people of all ages join in the dance around the drum house, moving together in a counter-clockwise circle, waving their hands and stomping their feet. They move in synchronization through a complex series of movements, following the lead singer and the chorus. 

The songs tell of the history of the Wa people, their religious ceremonies, their literature, their art, work and life. The event has a great unifying effect on the Wa community, and the passion of the event is energizing to visitors, and a rare opportunity to see into the culture of the Wa people.

Besides the main activities of the Wooden Drum Dance itself, the festival also includes entertainment such as sporting events, opera performances or carnivals.

The wooden drums that are at the center of the main activities of the festival are usually made of red wood nearly 1 meter thick and 2 meters long. The festival usually lasts three days.

The event takes place April 13-14 in Menglian County, Pu’er City, one of the two places that are home to the Wa ethnic group, the other one being Cangyuan County of Lincang City.

The Wooden Drum Dance was previously held in the "Grey Month" of the Wa calendar, but in 2002 the date was moved to April.

Ethnic Minorities

Wa Ethnic Minority


Yunnan Province

Holding Time

April 10 to April 12

Note: The “Grey Month” in Wa’s calendar (i.e. December in the solar calendar) was the time for Wa people to hold the Wooden Drum Dragging activity. In 2002, it was decided that April 10-12 will be date for the Wa People's Wooden Drum Festival in China.