March Fair is the grandest festival of the year for the Bai ethnics. Held from the 15th day to the 21st day of the third lunar month every year at the foot of the Mount Cangshan, west to the ancient city of Dali, the Bai hold the festival mainly for harvest.
History and Origin
There are two legends about the festival.
One legend goes like this. At the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618 -907 AD), the devil called Luocha occupied the territory of today’s Dali and persecuted the people. During the zhenguan Period (627-649 AD), Bodhisattva from the today’s India subdued the devil and save people from the suffer. Ever since, people would gather at the ancient town, offering vegetables to Bodhisattva.
The other legend has it that back in the period of Nanzhao State (938-1253 AD), the Bodhisattva came to Dali to speak on Buddhism on the 15th of the third lunar month, and then the Daili became a place for loyal believers to pay homage. As time went, for Dali’s strategic location, the city became a prosperous trade market in the region and a grand festival for the local people.
Currently there is no reliable record of the start of March Fair. But these two local legends offer an interesting explanation. Even though the two legends fail to give reasonable and convincing reasons on the history of the occasion, they at least show the fair was related to religion at its first stage.
Present-Day March Fair
Nowadays March Fair has become a prosperous commercial fair with tens of thousands of participants and a total volume of trade of over ten millions each year. During the March Fair, the streets at Dali town are competing with stalls selling a variety of items. March Fair is also a commodity and cultural fair. Besides the Bai ethnic people, other minority groups such as the Yi, Tibetan, Naxi, Nu, Hui in that region will all throng to the fair that day and horse race and other traditional folk activities are held. People gather there to enjoy dances, horse racing and other activities. It is now an official festival of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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