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Water-Splashing Festival, the New Year of Dai Ethnic Group


The Water-Splashing Festival is a traditional festival for the Dai people in the Dehong area of Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province in the southwest of China. It is the New Year for the Dai, a festival to send off the old and greet the new. Held during the sixth month of the Dai calendar, usually falling in mid-April of the Gregorian calendar, the festival normally lasts three or four days.


For Dai, water is the symbol of holiness, goodness and purity, is the most precious thing. During the festival, men and women indulge themselves in a spree of water-splashing. They gather along roadsides and in public parks and squares armed with buckets and basins of water or carrying squirt guns, to drench each other in wishes for good luck and a happy new year.


During the festival, the door of every house is decorated with multicolored pieces of paper. All the villagers dress in their holiday best. Sheep and cows are slaughtered for feasting, plus delicious glutinous rice cakes, rice noodles, and rice wine. The occasion is marked by a variety of entertainment, including singing and dancing, fireworks displays, boat racing, and exhibiting Kongming (air-borne) lanterns, bathing the Buddha, and parades and fairs.



On the eve of the first day of the festival, fireworks lighten the sky and Dai People hold dragon boat racing. On the second day, according to custom, people usually stay at home. The third day is regarded as New Year's Day. In the morning, people dress up and go to the temple to worship Buddha. They make three to five pagoda-shaped sand piles over one meter tall and plant eight bamboo twigs on the top wrapped in red and green strips. They then sit around the pagodas to listen respectfully to scripture and historical legends, and pray for good weather and many offspring. In the afternoon, every woman will carry fresh water to clean the Buddha statue so she might get his blessing. People then splash water on each other to symbolize the blessing, rinsing away sickness and disaster with holy water for a happy life.


The Water Splashing Festival vividly exhibits the Dai's homage to water and the culture of music and dance, food, and costumes. It is also a cultural bridge between South China and Southeast Asian countries that share the same festive culture of water-splashing.

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