Paomapi, literally "running horse guards", is a traditional folk custom in rural areas in Yangquan, Shanxi province. The custom is evolved from ancient sacrificial activities. All performers are young men in the village, who are half-naked in the freezing cold weather. Their faces and bodies are painted with greasepaint or spayed with chicken blood, with ring blades and handmade torches in hands, they have to look ferociously.
The activity starts from the temple in the village. Make-up artists paint makeup for the performers, and then all people involved will burn the incense and paper money, and bow before the memorial table. After that, performers will go out of the temple and keep running around the village with the torches and ring blades in hands. The whole activity will last for about two hours.
Besides its folk meaning of avoidance of ghosts and evil, the activity helps strengthen human bodies. There is a saying in Yangquan that "Running for a night, no disease for a year". Men have fully showed their strength in severe environment to gain women's admiration. Such kind of activity, which is on the verge of extinction, is hardly seen in China nowadays.
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