Top 5 Ethnic Minorities’ Festivals You Need to Know About

In China, the 55 ethnic minorities comprise approximately 8.5% of the whole population and have rich cultural customs that celebrate their diversity and tradition. Despite being such a small percentage of the Chinese population, they usually live in smaller communities and place much importance in maintaining their cultural heritage and customs alive. This means that they have many fascinating and meaningful celebrations that bring the community together.

One of the main ways of celebrating and promoting tradition is through festivals. This blog talks about some of the most renown festivals that some ethnic minorities celebrate. They inevitably attract many tourists as it is a privilege to experience them in person and are charged with tradition, cultural heritage and customs. However, even reading about these festivals can help you understand and learn a bit about the rich cultures of some of these ethnic minorities.

Ethnic Miao Group’s New Year Festival

First on the list is the most important festival of the year for the ethnic Miao people. This is the celebration of the beginning of a new year and unlike most Western cultures, where New Year’s day is always celebrated on the same day, this festival varies depending on the year and region. The exact dates are only disclosed a few months before so if you are interested in experiencing the festival yourself you may celebrate New Year’s day twice that year as the festival is usually celebrated around November! This festival is remarkable to see, so if you’re up for it, the grandest celebration occurs in the Leishan County in the Guizhou Province where it is recommended for tourists.

The Miao people dedicate this festival to celebrate the harvest of rice and so the star drink in this festival is traditional rice wine made from the harvest. A key element of the festival is to worship the ancestors by offering them fruit and meat in sign of remembrance and respect. One of the most characteristic customs is the traditional dances and music of the Miao people. These dances and parades are usually accompanied by a traditional musical instrument made from bamboo, the Lusheng, and young children dance to this music whilst dressed in their traditional magnificent costumes all covered in grand silver ornamentation. One of the most significant activities of the festival is bullfighting as it is a traditional event for Miao people.

Tibetan Shoton Festival

Another completely different festival is the Shoton festival in Tibet, being most known for celebrating by eating yogurt. Yogurt? Yes, you read that right, Shoton literally means yogurt banquet in Tibetan. During the festival, Tibetan artists perform traditional operas, and important monasteries display large Thangkas which are Buddha paintings. The main events during this festival are opera and exhibitions which give this festival its other two known names: “Tibetan Opera Festival” or “Thangka  Exhibition Festival”. The festival is held annually in the month of August, or late in the sixth month or early in the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar. On the first day you can see the large Thangka display in Drepung and Sera monastery, as well as Opera dance in Norbulingka park.

Tibetan New Year Festival

This festival is the most famous in the Tibetan calendar as it marks the new year and is normally celebrated for 15 days with the first three days having the main celebrations. It consists of ancient ceremonies representing the struggle between good and evil, which are characterized by chanting, and by passing fire torches through the crowds. On New Year’s Eve, people visit the monasteries and donate money to the monks. On New Year’s Day, Tibetans get up early, early and start a praying ceremony in their home where they worship the gods by placing offerings in the front of their household shrines. After that, they have a reunion dinner with traditional cake called Kapse and chang, an alcoholic beverage, and family members exchange gifts.

Water Splashing Festival of the Dai Ethnic people

This festival also celebrates the New Year for the Dai people who live in the DeShong area of Xishuangbana in the Yunnan Province in southwest China. It is called the water-splashing festival since it is characterized by splashing water onto one another as a symbol of holiness and religious purity but also goodwill among people.

The Dai people use the New Year to send off the old or past and invite the new year and future to come. It involves three days of celebrations that include light-hearted religious rituals, the main one being water-splashing. Water splashing is central to all because water, the symbol of holiness, goodness and purity, is the most precious thing to the Dai. Men and women gather in the roads or public parks to take part in a group spree of water with buckets and basins of water. When splashing another this wishes them good luck and a happy new year.

Sisters’ Meal Festival of the Miao ethnic people

The Sisters’ Meal Festival is celebrated by the Miao people especially in Taijing and Jianhe counties. This festival is regarded as the oldest Asian Valentine’s Day since it also celebrates Spring and this is a time where young singles are hopeful to meet their partner. The festival consists of a Sister’s Meal that young women have prepared with a traditional “sister’s rice” they have dyed with natural colors from wildflowers and leaves collected in the mountains. During the festival, the Miao girls dress up in their finest, beautifully elaborate silver celebration headdresses, neck chains and crowns. They then gather by the riverbanks and prepare the special “sister’s rice” which they will offer the young men soon to arrive. The men will sing to those women they are interested in marrying and the women will offer them the “Sister’s Meal” in response to their chants which consists of a drink of rice wine and the sister’s rice which is usually wrapped in a handkerchief decorated with symbols. When the young men arrive they begin to single out the women they hope to marry someday and begin to sing for them. The young women respond to their songs by giving them a drink of rice wine and the sisters’ rice wrapped in handkerchiefs with different symbols.

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“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


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A Dixi Opera inheritor brings his craft to schools

Dixi Opera is a type of opera in Anshun of Guizhou province performed in open spaces instead of on a formal stage by actors wearing wooden masks. Developed in the early Ming Dynasty, it is actually a branch of Nuo Opera.

 
 Chinese opera

The opera was formerly used by farmers to pray for good weather and good harvests. When performing, the actor will wear a mask, cover his face with green yarn, hold swords and spears, and carry small flags on his back. The actor will sing, dance, and perform acrobatic fighting in time with the music.

 
 Chinese opera

The Anshun Dixi Opera was listed in the country’s first batch of intangible cultural heritage in 2006.

Gu Jiashun was born in a Dixi Opera family. His grandfather was the first national-level inheritor of Dixi Opera. Gu Jiashun grew up with his grandfather and began learning the opera at age 9.

 
 Chinese opera

Gu Jiashun has loved Dixi Opera since childhood and always hoped that Dixi Opera could be taught in schools. Finally, he opened a Dixi class for juniors in 2013 with his friends, to fulfill one of his grandfather’s last wishes. At the start, he faced strong pressure as some parents thought learning opera would affect their children’s study at school.

But gradually villagers recognized the value of the classes. Now Gu Jiashun holds Dixi Opera classes in several local schools.

“Dixi Opera plays a major part in the local culture, and I want people to be aware of this and be proud of our traditional cultural heritage,” Gu said.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!