Top Festivals & Celebration in Yunnan

1. Water Splashing Festival
The annual Water Splashing Festival of the Dai ethnic minority falls during the New Year celebrations of the Dai Calendar. It is the most important festival observed by the Dai ethnic people of Xishuangbanna Prefecture, and, similar to neighboring Thailand's Songkran Festival, it involves three days of celebrations that include sincere, yet light-hearted religious rituals that invariably end in merrymaking, where everyone ends up getting splashed, sprayed or doused with water.

During the first two days of the festival, a dragon boat race is held to ring out the old year (the first day of the festival) and to ring in the new (the second day of the festival). The third day, the climax of the festival, is reserved for water splashing. On that day, the Dai put on their newest and best clothes, then assemble at the local Buddhist temple, where the monks chant Buddhist scriptures. Afterward, a symbolic water splashing ritual is enacted whereby a Buddhist statue, with pomp and ceremony, is first coaxed out of the temple to the courtyard, then is splashed with water. This important ritual is called 'Bathing the Buddha'.

The completion of the 'Bathing the Buddha' ritual serves as the signal that encourages ordinary mortals to themselves engage in mutual water splashing. Accordingly, people flock to the streets with pots, pans, bottles, or whatever, where they uninhibitedly splash, spray and douse each other with water, with the same gusto with which Westerners engage in a good snowball free-for-all.

The Water Splashing ceremony, however, is more than just good-natured fun; it also contains a religious element: water is regarded by the Dai as a symbol, firstly, of religious purity, but also of goodwill among people. Therefore, splashing a fellow human being with water during the Water Splashing Festival, whether a close neighbor or a fellow villager, or even a stranger, is an expression of the desire for good luck and prosperity to that person.

For the tourist interested in interacting directly with the Dai ethnic minority of Xishangbanna Prefecture in an informal and fun-filled manner, the annual Water Splashing Festival that takes place in the month of April is the perfect occasion. China Highlights offers a special tour to the city of Jinghong each year to coincide with the Dai ethinic minority's annual Water Splashing Festival.

2. The Torch Festival
As one of the major traditional festivals of the Yi and Bai ethnic groups, the Torch Festival takes place on lunar 24 June (20 July) for the Yis and 25 June (21 July) for the Bais, enjoying a history of at least 2,000 years.

To celebrate the impressive ceremonies of the Torch Festival with locals, hereunder are some places recommended in Yunnan.

Shilin County
Shilin is where the World Natural Heritage the Stone Forest is. The celebration will last about one week (14-20 July), and will be highlighted by a string of programmes such as traditional wrestling, buffalo fighting, Three-stringed Guitar performance, Yi ethnic costumes show and antiphonal singing etc, all of which are the essence of the Sani ethnic culture.

Chuxiong Prefecture
The largest Yi ethnic autonomous prefecture of Yunnan Province. Two destinations are recommended for the festival: one is the Yi Ethnic Old Town, the other one Shuangbai County which is known for the Tiger Culture of the Yis.

Yunnan Nationalities Village, Kunming
It is the grand park of Yunnan ethnic culture, offering the easiest way to experience the torch festival of the Yis, Bais, and so on.

Dali Prefecture
The Bai ethnic Torch festival takes place on lunar 25 June (21 July) in many places such as Dali Old Town, Xizhou, Zhoucheng etc. Er'yuan County to the north of Dali Old Town is highly recommended this time of the year. What is worth going includes the Cibi Lake, Xihu Lake, and the rustic Liyuan Village (Pear Orchid Village).


3. The 2014 Mt Shibao Shan Song Festival
Date: 22-24 August, 2014
Place: Shibao Mt Scenic Attraction, Jianchuan County, Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture.

It is the grandest festival in Dali following the Torch Festival, and Bai and other ethnic folk singers around Dali will gather at the Shibao Mt, staging impromptu antiphonal songs to express what they want to say. Different singing styles (most in dialects) will add great fun to the event.

What to see around Jianchuan?
(1). Shibao Mt: Buddhist grottos dating back to the Nanzhao Kingdom period in the Tang Dynasty.
(2). Shaxi: a well-preserved caravan town on the Ancient Tea-Horse Trail in Southwest China.

Travel route
Kunming——Dali——Jianchuan——Shaxi——Shibao Mt