Spring Festival in Yunnan – Year of the Tiger

By in Features

Spring Festival basics

Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year, is the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year in the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. The first day of Chinese New Year — called danian chuyi (大年初一) in Chinese — falls on the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February, which is specifically February 1 in 2022.

At midnight, the Year of the Ox will come to a close and the Year of the Tiger will begin, no doubt with a bang. If you do not understand what exactly is going on during all the festivities, you are not alone.

Source: Chloe Evans on Unsplash
Source: Chloe Evans on Unsplash

Spring Festival is perhaps the most important holiday around China. New Year's Eve dinner — or nianyefan (年夜饭) — is especially important, and in preparation families will clean their houses from top to bottom. It is conventional for people to dress in new clothes for the meal, further marking a fresh start. The feast kicks off more than two weeks of celebration — each day with its own specific traditions — which come to a close during Lantern Festival (上元节) on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.

Shazhufan – 'kill the pig meal'

Many rural families, especially in Yunnan, raise at least one pig and hold it aside for slaughter on the new year. Every part of the pig is used to make several different dishes, which an extended family will then share, signifying togetherness. The pig can be replaced with a goat or donkey as well, depending on what is hanging around the barnyard.

The meal is called shazhufan (杀猪饭) which translates as 'kill the pig meal'. Dishes made for this feast are often consumed over several days as leftovers depending on the size of the family and of the pig. Having leftovers around is significant because for many people the first day of Spring Festival is a time to do as close to nothing as possible — with the notable exceptions of eating, drinking and spending time with family.

Spring Festival in the ethnically diverse Yunnan province

China is indeed an extremely expansive country, in which a lot of diversity can be observed, both in differences of celebrating Spring Festival between southern and northern areas, as well as among different provinces and ethnic minorities.

In Yunnan, 25 officially recognized ethnic minorities make up a large part of the province's population. Each of them have distinctive ways to celebrate Spring Festival. Many books have been written covering the many differences in culture, language, and other traditions and habits among the different ethnic groups in Yunnan. We've picked a few to unfold how the story of Spring Festival is told in China's most diverse province.

Jingpo people

Jingpo men line up and prepare for the "archery contest"
Jingpo men line up and prepare for the "archery contest"

Jingpo people mainly live in Yunnan's southwestern prefecture Dehong, along the Myanmar border, and are famous for their bravery, tenacity and fortitude.

Traditionally for Chinese New Year's Eve, part of the men slaughter a pig at home, while most others go hunting in the mountains. The ladies go down the well to collect water, which is called "new year's water". If the "new year's water" is more than which they carried in the previous year, it indicates that the rainfall in the coming year will be abundant and thus the crops plentiful.

During Spring Festival, Jingpo people will hold an archery contest. On the morning of the first day of the lunar new year, people will gather in the village square. The girls will hang their embroidery-decorated purse on top of a bamboo pole. If the shooter manages to hit the strap of the purse he will be named "sharp shooter" and will be rewarded a bowl of rice wine from the girls.

Dai people

Elephant foot drum competition of Dai in Xishuangbanna
Elephant foot drum competition of Dai in Xishuangbanna

The Dai people mainly live in tropical Xishuangbanna and Dehong Prefectures in the south of Yunnan province. Dai people are famous for being artistically talented, and generally are considered great singers and dancers. During Spring Festival, some villages will hold elephant-foot drum competitions. The instruments are designed resembling feet the large mammal. Elephants are respected animals in the region and travel between southern Yunnan and bordering Laos. During the competition, whoever plays the drum the fastest and loudest for the longest time wins.

The Dai People have their own New Year's celebration as well, which is celebrated on April 13. the most important festival of the Dai – the "Water Splashing Festival" – is similar to Thailand's Songkran Festival. Dai people regard splashing water as a symbol of dispelling evil and bringing good luck.

Zhuang people

Zhuang people are dancing and singing aroung the "welcoming fire"
Zhuang people are dancing and singing aroung the "welcoming fire"

The majority of Zhuang in Yunnan live in Wenshan, another southern prefecture. The Zhuang people need to return home every year before the 30th day of the twelfth lunar month. On the evening of New Year's Eve, each family will lit a fire and will stay together for the whole evening. A large elaborative meal is traditionally prepared. Dai cuisine is one of the most loved types of food around Yunnan province. Families generally cook for the whole day to show that a good harvest is coming.

On the first and the second day of the first month, traditionally Zhuang people eat zongzi (粽子) — glutinous rice often cooked with sweet or savory fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Although zongzi is usually associated with Dragon Boat Festival, the Zhuang make them all-year round.

Yunnan's great diversity allows for almost unlimited exploration. Festivals and traditions are just a small part of what makes this southwestern province one of the most popular destinations among international travelers. GoKunming would like to extend heartfelt best wishes to all of our readers in the Year of the Tiger.

Dali Old Town March Street Festival

© Copyright 2005-2022 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Share this article

Comments

Not a good day for pigs. Nice piece Zhou Mengya. 新年快乐to you and yours!

Well done fabey. After three months you finally made it 5 out of 5 in the comment section ;-)

Well, that comment streak didn't last long.

The tiger may socialize pending environmental circumstances, but for the most part are at peace in solitude.

Login to comment