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!
Opening ceremony crowd
After watching this officer for an extended period, I concluded he was genuinely serious about giving his very best to the job of providing public security. Impressive, since crowd control in China can be a seemingly impossible task!
These are not “costumes” per se. They are traditional ethnic minority clothing, still worn by many local minorities. These are local Bai ladies.
My favorite minority dress at this event. So colorful!
Dragon ladies waiting patiently for the official start.
Local Bai ladies having fun with their dragon dance!
I thought the umbrella and flowers really completed these men’s pretty outfits!
Boys from the “hood”
Boys all lined up for their dance.
My guess: beauty queens for the event.
And the winner is…?!
What’s a big event without the local VIP’s?!
Even after a long event, these local ladies were willing to pose for pics…thanks!
This little girl was so tired and bored while waiting for the event to begin. I watched as she tried SO many emotions and distractions to deal with the long wait!
Couldn’t resist sharing 2 pics of this cute girl!
At times, she seemed fascinated with her new balloon!
So glad these ladies were willing to stop and allow me to take their photo. Thanks!
What would a fair be without a clown making balloons!
Such a sweet granddaughter just sitting on the curb with her grandpa.
This lady was very friendly, did not mind me taking her picture and even happy to chat!
Look, an “old-fashioned” selfie without a stick!
I watched this man for a long time, as he stood near me…likely waiting for family or friends.
It took a long time to get a picture of this elegant lady…and it was worth the wait as the camera captured her having a friendly banter with a man who seemed to her husband.
Too bad this photo could not capture this woman’s walk…not to mention the stories I’m sure she could tell of living in China over the past 65+ years.
Even in a crowd of thousands, it would have been difficult not to notice this striking man walking by!
Not sure “who” or “what” she sees…just glad it’s not me!
The photo that almost got me in big trouble!
The photo that saved me: June with her husband (they are from LA!)
Entrance gate to the horse races
Crowd-watching at the horse races…
Parting shot of the entrance gate to San Yue Jie
This view tells you this is “Bai country”…more on that later!
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.