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Yunnan Festivals & Events

What to See in Yunnan

The wide range of ethnic groups and mix of religious beliefs has left Yunnan with so many festivals it would be impossible to list them all here.

Many festivals are based on the Chinese lunar calendar and so have variable dates that relate to the new and full moon. The following festivals are celebrated throughout the province.

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Chinese New Year

Like Christmas in the west, this is a time for joyous family reunions, and exchanging gifts. Elaborate meals are prepared, and there is an air of continuous celebration which runs through until the Lantern festival.

Falling on the first day of the Lunar New Year, sometime between January and February, this is the longest and most important festival in China. With the exception of movie theatres and restaurants, most businesses close down for an entire week.

Evil spirits are said to wander freely at this time, and used to be kept at bay by thousands of exploding firecrackers. However, due to injury and fires, this fun has now been curtailed with the introduction of explosive tape recordings. 

Dragon Boat Festival

On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month a great celebration, featuring dragon boat races, takes place.

Teams of dragon boats, similar to long canoes, train for weeks for the colourful and exciting contests.

The day - originally in commemoration of the great Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, who lived over 2,000 years ago - is also marked with feasts and music. 

Dragon & Lion Dances

Though they were originally used to stop the spread of epidemics, and to pray for rain, colourful and noisy dragon and lion dances now form a part of many festivals and celebrations. Traditional Chinese festivals are an occasion to ward off evil spirits and enjoy sumptuous feasts with reunited family members.

Ghost Day

It is believed that, on the first day of the seventh lunar month, ghosts are allowed out to re-enter the world of the living for one more day of fun. To ensure the spectral visitors enjoy themselves lavish offerings are made, paper money burned, and colourful operas performed. The climax is the Chong Yang Festival on the 15th of the month, when Taoist and Buddhist priests conduct chanting ceremonies for the ghosts and sacrificial feasts are laid out in temples.

Lantern Festival

Celebrated on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, this dates back to ancient China, when people searched for heavenly spirits by lantern light. This has developed into a full festival with acrobatic displays, lion and dragon dances, folk art performances, temple processions, and houses are gaily decorated with lanterns and coloured streamers.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Celebrating the harvest moon, on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, this festival is marked by family reunions, moon gazing, and eating traditional moon cakes - a round pastry stuffed with red bean paste, egg yolk, or fruit.

Pure Brightness Day

In the third lunar month, the Ching Ming Festival is held to honour ancestors, make offerings, and clean their graves. Kite-flying, Chinese football, dog races, and other amusements add to the day's festive feel.

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