Yangshuo Guilin festivals and Chinese holidays
Mid-Autumn Day, together with Spring Festival is very important to the Chinese people. Celebrated on Aug 15th of the lunar calendar every year, which is a full-moon day and known as the festival of reunion because the full moon is round and symbolizes reunion. Mid-autumn Day is also called Zhong Qiu Jie and Tuan Yuan Jie. On this day, all family members try to get together. After a family reunion dinner, people like to put traditional food on the table. Eating mooncakes is one common custom. Some Yangshuo people will make paper boats and put candles in it, then make their wishes before letting the boats float in the Li River.
Mid-Autumn Day is also a Folk Song Singing Festival in yangshuo to the Zhuang minority. They will join in a groups of 3-5 people, whistling with the leaves and singing under the moonlight to express their affection on someone. Nowadays, the Zhuang minority who reside in Gaotian Town usually will choose Moon Hill as the places for singing. The singing will attract many people around Yangshuo.
Fishing Lights Festival on Yangshuo Li River
This is a rather new festival in Yangshuo Guilin, usually celebrated in November since 1999. Local fishermen will get together on the Li River at night on their traditional bamboo rafts, lighted with golden lanterns. People on the banks will show various dances and competitions while in the end numerous small paper boats decorated with flowers and candles will be let adrift on the river. It is a beautiful sight with so many lights floating like twinkling stars on the water.
Spring Festival (Chinese Lunar New Year
Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival (Chun Jie). To the Chinese people, it is as important as Christmas to people in the West. The dates for this annual celebration are determined by the lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar. According to tradition, the Spring Festival starts from the early days of the 12th lunar month every year and will last till the middle of the 1st lunar month of the next year. Although China has 56 ethnic groups, minorities celebrate their Spring Festival almost the same day as the Han people. People in Yangshuo Guilin celebrate in the same way.
Usually people prepare for the New Year from the last few days of the last moon before the New Year comes. They will clean house, pay off debts and buy new things like clothes for the kids. A very important thing is to decorate the whole building with paper scrolls written with auspicious slogans, and then burn incense at home and pay respect to the ancestors and bless the gods for good health and luck in the new year.
On the Spring Festival Eve , the whole family will get together and eat a big dinner. Dishes with chicken, fish and bean curd are staples. According to their pronunciation in Chinese, respectively “ji” (chicken), “yu” (fish) and “doufu” (bean curd), mean auspicious, abundance and richness. After dinner, the whole family will sit together, chatting and watching TV. It’s time for relaxing after being busy all year long. People in Yangshuo will make a lot of cakes, which are called “Nian Gao”, meaning “passing the year”, what actually means” greeting the new year”. According to the customs, each family will stay up to wait for the coming year. And at midnight at the turn of the old and new year, people will light fire-crackers to drive the evil spirits away and greet the arrival of the new year. In an instant, the whole town will be engulfed in the deafening noise of firecrackers.
On the first day of the new year, everybody wakes up early and dresses up in their best clothing. People extend greetings to their parents and the children will get money as a New Year gift. For Yangshuo people, it’s very important to invite grandpa and grandma to have dinner together on the first day, as on Spring festival Eve. The lively atmosphere not only fills every household, but will spread to the streets where a series of activities such as lion dancing and dragon lantern dancing are held. All in all the Spring Festival lasts for 15 days.
The next festival after the spring festival is Lantern Festival, also called Yuan Xiao Jie and Deng Jie in Chinese. It is celebrated on January 15 of the lunar calendar. According to the history and legend, this festival derives from the Han dynasty. Ancient people would light lanterns and fireworks to appeal for mercy and make dumplings with glutinous rice flour to serve the fairies. They did so to avoid the disaster from the Jade Emperor (a supernatural being in Chinese folklore ) who planned to set the whole world on fire. From then on, people formed this ritual and added more interesting activities into it, such as puzzle and riddle games, stilt-walking, Lion-dances, Dragon Dances and prayer boats. This festival has been passing down because of its interesting activities. Nowadays, Yangshuo Guilin people have developed a new festival named Fishing Lights Festival which combines the traditional culture and new customs in Yangshuo. Very similar to Lantern Festival, but is held on the river, not on land. After putting candles into paper boats, people burn the candles and let them float along the water in the Li River. At the same time, the fishing boats with lanterns sail leisurely which forms a fantastic sight. So some people in Yangshuo treat the Fishing Lights Festival as the new Lantern Festival (Deng Jie).
Qing Ming (Tomb-Sweeping Day)
Tomb-sweeping Day also called Qingming Jie (clear and bright) in Chinese, derives from the Zhou dynasty. On this day, people will go to the graves of their ancestors to express their respect. Most people from the same family tree will get together and prepare a sacrifice in front of the tombs. First, they will add soil and stones to the tomb which represents decorating the house for the ancestor, and then burn charm papers, firecrackers and candles to invite them to back for dinner. People believe the dead will receive a blessing in heaven by doing like that. On the other hand, people want to let others know that the deceased have descendants by sweeping the tombs. After that, they will get together again and have dinner. This festival can be seen as a gathering which is very good for solidarity in the whole family. Usually people will sit together and share the stories of their ancestors. People in Yangshuo treat this festival seriously. They grasp this opportunity not only to express respect for their ancestors, but also to educate the young people and children how to learn from their ancestors and to be a good person.
Duan Wu Jie (Dragon Boat Festival)
The Dragon Boat Festival derives from 2,000 years ago and is one of the oldest traditional festivals to the Chinese people and can have many different names like Duan Wu Jie, Duan Yang Jie, Double 5th Festival, Bath Festival, Daughter Festival, The Poet Festival, etc. The Origin of the Dragon Boat Festival is thought to commemorate poet Qu Yuan, a minister in the state of Qu, who was banished for opposing an alliance with the state of Qin. During his exile he wrote many poems, which are still read today. When the Qin betrayed the alliance and invaded the Chu, Qu Yuan committed suicide in despair by drowning himself. As he was widely respected as a Confucian scholar and statesman, the local people threw glutinous rice into the river to feed the fish, so that they would not eat the beloved Qu Yuan. Eating glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaf, known as zhongzi, is a way that people today commemorate Qu Yuan on Duan Wu Jie.
Usually today, people hang a picture of Zhong Kui (a supernatural being professionalized in exorcising the devil) on the wall, hold Dragon-boat Races and drink Xiong Huang wine. Up to this day, this festivalis celebrated by most Chinese throughout Asia. Dragon-boat Racing has become a international sporting event. Yangshuo people also have their own features on this festival. Except for drinking Xiong Huang wine, usually the daughters go home to visit the relatives, bringing rice dumplings and other gifts. Some people in Yangshuo Guilin will burn red paper and incense on the bridge nearby the river to pray everything goes well for their family and the whole country. Some schools in Yangshuo will take this time to instill patriotism in students, such as by holding a poem speech contest.
May 8th in Fuli Town
One of the most interesting local festivals in Yangshuo is May 8th in Fuli Town. This festival is (obviously) held on May 8th of the lunar calendar every year, in order to commemorate the legendary Godfather (Uncle Pankao) and Godmother (A Ma). This is especially a grand festival to the people who gave birth to boys. So local people also call the festival “Zai Jie”. It is said that Uncle Pankao and A Ma could bring happiness and make the local people give birth to boys to continue their family name . So the local residents assemble to make sacrifice to the Godfather and Godmother, and then parade in the street, beating drums, playing lion-dance and rolling colorful floats.
Yangshuo families will make special local dishes, such as eggplant, stuffed snails, balsam pears, and peppers to celebrate this great day. This festival will last one week, so many activities are held. Wandering the streets to enjoy recreations, watching films under the open sky, and participating in various sports ( basketball ,chess, tug-of-war, etc). People will get together to enjoy everything. In recent years, local people have been exhibiting their handicrafts such as painting fans and embroideries. These handicrafts are also very popular in Yangshuo. To some degree, this festival is the promotion of the communication for Yangshuo culture.
June 23rd in Baisha Town
As one of the most interesting festivals in Yangshuo , June 23rd on the lunar calendar is as important as Spring Festival to the people in Baisha town. This is the birthday of Guanyu, a wise and brave hero in Chinese history. The people will hold many kinds of activities to show their respect and commemoration to him on this day every year. Offering sacrifice to pray for wealth, health and good luck, they will parade in the street performing ethnic dances and riding horses. Some of the young will act like Liubei, Kongming and Zhangfei who are Guanyu’s historical comrades.
One of the festival’s highlights is an exciting and competitive game called ‘Qiang Hua Pao’. You can win four standard prizes by catching a red ring sent to the sky with a Roman candle. The ring is made of iron with a diameter of only three centimeters. The people will be divided into 10 teams consisting of more than 10 strong men. There are four rounds, and the ring, as the prize of the round, is sent to the sky. At the same time, each team will try their best to grab it. Nowadays, this festival has been developed more colorful and become one of the best local festivals in Yangshuo. Basketball, chess competitions as well as other interesting activities also will be held during the festival.
Double 9th festival
Double Ninth Festival , celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, began as early as the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC). According to the traditional Chinese yin/yang dichotomy that forms a basis to the Chinese world view, yin represents the elements of darkness, yang represents life and brightness, and Chong means double. The ninth day of the ninth month is a double yang day, so this festival also named “Chong Yang Jie.” On this day, people will climb the highest mountains pinning the leaves of cornus on their clothes and drinking chrysanthemum wine. They believe these activities will be useful against possible disasters and evil spirits. For another thing, this day is to express they are missing their kinfolks. Also, it’s a time for family get-togethers to remember one’s ancestors, the sacrifices they made and the hardships they underwent. Family outings are organized to renew their appreciation of nature and to reaffirm their love and concern for family members and close friends. Nowadays this Festival in Yangshuo is not so popular as it was in the old days. But many people still celebrate it in the traditional way. They invite their relatives and friends together, drink at home or make a trip outside to see the water and mountains around Yangshuo Guilin.
Double 10th in Puyi Town
As one of the most popular festivals in Yangshuo, Double Tenth Festival is a sweet festival to the people in Puyi Town. All around are golden fruits and sweet fragrance at this time of a year. People in Puyi Town celebrate this time with the purpose of commemorating a bumper harvest. They celebrate this in the traditional way by assembling and performing. After playing the dragon and lion dances, they will get together to drink and play games, like basketball, chess and cards. Just like the local folk customs in Fuli town and Baisha Town, this October Sweetness festival means a lot to the people in Puyi, and it is still an important day in Yangshuo culture.