Numbering 8 million, they are the seventh largest of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. They live primarily in rural areas of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi, usually in mountainous regions. The Yi play a number of traditional musical instruments, including large plucked and bowed string instruments, as well as wind instruments called bawu (巴乌) and mabu (马布). The Yi also play the hulusheng, though unlike other minority groups in Yunnan, the Yi do not play the hulusheng for courtship or love songs (aiqing).
The kouxian, a small four-pronged instrument similar to the Jew's harp, is another commonly found instrument among the Liangshan Yi. Kouxian songs are most often improvised and are supposed to reflect the mood of the player or the surrounding environment. Kouxian songs can also occasionally function in the aiqing form. Yi dance is perhaps the most commonly recognized form of musical performance, as it is often performed during publicly sponsored holidays and/or festival events.
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