Each year, our local town, Dali, hosts an event called 三月节 (or “San Yue Jie” which literally means “3rd full moon festival”). Because it is based on the lunar calendar, this festival is usually held in late April or early May. For over 1,000 years, people from across China and neighboring countries like Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam and Tibet* have made the trek to Dali for this annual event! Today, over 1M people come to Dali for this event each year.
Historically, this was the time when people from the region’s villages gathered to buy and sell handmade crafts, tools, Chinese medicine and other special items that would last for the next year. One source says this is the largest fair of its kind in all of China.
This year, I managed to attend the opening ceremony which features a variety of local minority songs and dances, including the traditional Chinese dragon dance. One of the things that makes this type of festival special to me is the realization that most of these dancers are local parents, daughters, sons, siblings, shopkeepers, farmers and students. These are our neighbors!
Horse races are also a big draw each year and this year I went on Day 1 (which features much better horses than Day 2). With all these people coming to town from all over the SW part of China and beyond, it’s a great opportunity for people-watching.
Rather than write too much more about this event, I’ll share some of this year’s pics in a photo-essay format. Hope you enjoy!
In case you’re interested, there are two leading versions of the historical origin of San Yue Jie. The following story is the most popular among locals today:
“Once upon a time, a young fisherman near Er Sea married Third Princess of Dragon King. On March 15, the moon was round and bright. The Princess looked at the moon, and remembered the Yue Jie held by Chang E. Therefore, she and her husband went to Yue Jie by riding a dragon. She liked all the goods on the moon, but she couldn’t buy them. The couple made up their mind to hold a Yue Jie of their own at the foot of the Diancang Hill, so that the civilians could buy anything they liked. Subsequently, they planted a tree on the slope of the Zhonghe Hill and the fair was held every March 15.”
*NOTE: Today, Tibet is an Autonomous Region under Chinese government authority.
Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016. All rights reserved.