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March 3rd Festival (Sanyuesan Festival)

Lunar March 3rd must be a glamourous spring day to go outdoors and breathe the fresh green air, eating and drinking by the water like Han People used to do hundreds of years ago, which was widely described in paintings or poems. More surprisingly, March 3rd was also celebrated by lovers as a Valentine's Day back then.

The famous calligraphy of Wang Xizhi, “The Orchid Pavilion” was inspired and produced when he celebrated the day with friends in Kuaiji Mountain playing a popular game ,“Qu Shui Liu Shang” (曲水流觞), of Wei and Jin Dynasties.

The Orchid Pavilion(兰亭集序) of Wang Xizhi, Saint of Calligraphy

“Qu Shui Liu Shang” is an ancient game that used to be played beside a winding stream in which floating with cups of liquors. The participations would sit along the stream and drink the liquors from the random stopped cups in front of them, which was believed could take away bad luck. It was even more romantic when Wang Xizhi and his friends played in a slightly different way that the one who caught the cup not only just drank the liquors but also composed a poem. The Orchid Pavilion was created in such a wonderful scenery and atmosphere as the preface of all the poems.

 People playing Qu Shui Liu Shang

Chinese Valentine's Day

However the festival has gradually faded into an ordinary day celebrated by less people except them from ethnic groups in China while the romantic game only exists in the words of people. Thanks to the Lanting International Calligraphy Festival, the game is relighted as a special ceremony and entertainment of the Calligraphy Festival.

A Revival of Qu Shui Liu Shang

 Lanting International Calligraphy Festival

Nowadays, it‘s probably unknown to many that March 3rd is a festival of many nationalities including Han. It was also named Shangsi Festival(上巳节) before Wei and Jin Dynasties. It’s believed that Lunar March 3rd is the birthday of the Yellow Emperor-- the ancestor of Chinese which serves as the reason why Han People used to celebrate it. However, March 3rd has different meanings for other ethnic groups like She, Zhuang, Buyi, Tujia, Li which celebrate it in various purposes by carrying out different activities.
Ethnic She on Lunar March 3rd

To She People, March 3rd is a big day which is as important as the Spring Festival. They celebrate the day as “Wufan Festival” (乌饭节) and "Duige Festival” (对歌节) when every family cooks and eats wufan (tasty sticky rice colored by a kind of plants into dark blue or black) and people sing in antiphonal style, perform traditional She dances.

 She People Sharing Wufan

 Black Sticky Rice,Wufan


 She Girls Performing Traditional Dance

Sanyuesan Festival of Ethnic Zhuang

Different from that in She groups, Sanyuesan is the “Geixu Festival”(歌圩节) celebrated by Zhuang People. During the two or three days’ festival, they cook sticky rice as well but color it into five different colors, and they also color eggs. Singled young girls and boys are the "heroes” of the festival while the old and the kids are the supporting actors and audience. Geixu is a traditional gathering of this ethnic group often falling on important days like Lunar January 15th, March 3rd, April 8th and Lunar August 15th, among which Sanyuesan Gexu is the largest, in which thousands of people will be involved. The hospitality of Zhuang People always accommodates singers and audience from other towns or villages as well.

Besides singing, interesting Zhuang activities will be carries out among which “Throwing Embroidered Balls” is the most attractive and exiting one. In Zhuang’s tradition since Song or Yuan Dynasty, young girls throw embroidered balls to the young men they like.

 Sanyuesan Festival of Zhuang

 Gexu Gathering of Zhuang

 Colored Sticky Rice, wucaifan

 Embroidered Balls of Zhuang

Tujia People Celebrate "Valentine's Day" on March 3rd
On March 3rd in the green mountains of Tujia villages, young people gather and sing folk love songs in the dense forests to celebrate their own “Valentine's Day”. It is also the biggest day to sacrifice to the ancestors.

As for Han People, the day is less colorful. However some customs are still alive in some places. For example, people in some parts of Anhui and Hubei Province, eat Jicai (a wild plant) on March 3rd to celebrate the day as a "ghost festival". It’s also said people eat Jicai to pray for wealth because jicai has a similar pronunciation with "collecting money" in Chinese.

All in all, March 3rd is important abounding with rich traditions, customs, legends and wisdom of all the nationalities in China.



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