Sanya traditional festivals and activities

Dragon Boat Festival


Every May 5 (lunar calendar) During the Dragon Boat Festival every year, the dragon boat contest is a popular festival activity attracting thousands of people to Sanya. It is usually carried out at port or on Sanya River; it is a great source of fun to the local people as well as tourists. Upon the sounding of firecrackers, numerous spectators would flock to the ports or river banks to cheer for their favorable teams. The contestants, for their own honor and the entertainment of their spectators, would strive to reach the finish by braving the waves.

Origin of the Festival

The Festival is believed to have originated in ancient China. Today the best known origin of the festival is the suicide of Qu Yuan, a poet and statesman of the Chu kingdom during the Warring States period in 278 BC. He is a descendant of the Chu royal family and served as a high-rank official. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance.  During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin conquered the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on May 5 of Chinese lunar calendar.

It is said that the local people rushed to save him by rowing boat as quickly as possible. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing. Then people threw food into the river to feed the fish so that they would not destroy Qu Yuan's body.


Eryue’er, Festival: When great dragons raise their heads

Eryue’er is a traditional Chinese festival for many ethnic groups, including Han, Li, Miao, Zhuang, Man, Dong and other smaller ethnic groups. It literally means February 2 of the Chinese lunar calendar. The earliest record about this festival can be found in the Tang Dynasty (618—907AD). Bai Juyi, a great poet of the Tang Dynasty wrote a poem saying: “On Eryue’er, the first rounds of spring rain falls gently on the tender grass and vegetables; Along the X-shaped river banks, lightly-dressed young people walk in single file with their yearlings.” People have fun on the grass and in woods to appreciating the beauty of spring during this festival. They also have some ceremonial activities such as offering vegetables and fruits as a symbol of fortune to friends and relatives. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644AD), there were more dragon-related activities on this Festival. This festival is also called the Dragons-raise-heads Festival. In Chinese Mythology, the great dragons were in charge of the rain and wind, which are of vital importance to agriculture. Therefore, people celebrate this festival to pray for good climate and good harvests.

Hainan Island is surrounded by the sea, which is the home of dragons in Chinese Mythology. Therefore, worshiping dragons is extremely popular and important here. Every coastal village has a temple dedicated to the worshiping of the great dragons. The fishermen also worship the great dragons and celebrate the Eryue’er Festival for good luck on their fishing voyages.

From 2005 onwards, during every Eryue’er (Dragons-raise-heads) Festival, there is a government organized grand ceremony to worship the great Dragons and the sea at the scenic spot of Daxiao Dongtian. Nowadays, in addition to the traditional praying for a good harvest and good fortune, local people have introduced new elements into activities, such as environmental-protection campaigns, during festival. They believe that by celebrating the Dragons-raise-heads Festival, China will be more and more prosperous and the Chinese people, who believe that they are the offspring of the great dragons; will enjoy a happier life.


Sanyuesan Festival

Sanyuesan Festival (March 3 of the Chinese Lunar Calendar) is a traditional festival in China. It is observed and celebrated by many Chinese ethnic groups, including the Han people, as the festival for lovers to express their love for each other in various ways. In a sense, it is China’s Valentine's Day.
It is said that March 3 is the birthday of the Yellow Emperor (Huang-di), a legendary Chinese sovereign and cultural hero who is considered in Chinese mythology to be the ancestor of all Chinese people, including all the ethnic groups in China. Various ethnic groups celebrate this festival in their own specific ways, usually involving lovers expressing their love by means of dancing, singing, chatting softly, or by the mutual exchange of love letters and gifts. DU Fu (712–770), a great Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty recorded the festival in a line in his poem like this: “Folks enjoy the fine weather of the approaching spring on the Sanyuesan, appreciating groups of stunning beauties of the royal family strolling on the riverside of Chang’an” (Note: Chang’an was the capital city of China and the biggest and most prosperous city in the world at that time). 
The Han people celebrate this festival by admiring the beautiful spring scenery by rivers, meeting lovers, appreciating flowers, having parties, and planting willow twigs.
Due to the close connections and the mutual influence between Han and other ethnic groups in China, the Sanyuesan Festival is also regarded by many other Chinese ethnic groups to be their major or biggest festival. It is recorded that in the Song Dynasty (960—1276), the ethnic groups in the current Guangxi Province celebrated the Sanyuesan Festival by singing love songs and making alliances between various tribes.
The local Li ethnic groups regard the Sanyuesan Festival as their biggest festival. It is a festival for praying for the harvesting of crops and successful hunting. However, the most important content and all the major celebrative activities are related to love and weddings. Therefore, Sanyuesan is also called the Day of Love (Funianfu, in Li language) by Li people.
From ancient times in every Sanyuesan Festival, Li people would dress in their best and most formal ethnic clothes, and carry bottles of homemade rice wine (a wine that tastes like sake in Japan) and delicious rice in bamboo containers to gather together for this carnival, usually in a palm tree wood or rubber plant wood with a big open area. They would play unique music instruments, dance and sing folk songs with their loved ones, including family members, old and new friends. When they wanted to have a rest from these traditional gatherings, young men would go to fish in streams, the girls would cook and make a Li-style BBQ; other people would lay out the ding sum (snacks) and pray in front of a statue of the Guanyin Goddess for a prosperous harvest and good luck. After the praying ceremony, young people would perform in sport competitions such archery, coconut tree climbing, and playing on the swings for fun. When it turned dark, they would dance around the bonfire in various fabulous, energetic, and interactive ways. The jewelry and ornaments of girls would glitter in the night. Young men would carry colourful umbrellas and dance around girls to flirt and express their love. If a girl and a boy liked each other, they would go to a quieter corner in the wood and exchange the love gifts that they’d prepared in advance. In most cases, boys would give an item of jewelry and girls would make a Li brocade colourful belt. Of course, they will talk together for hours until the dawn comes.

The Sanyuesan Festival is widely celebrated by many ethnic groups in China. It reflects the close connection, mutual influence, and friendship of all the ethnic groups within China.

Resources from Government Official website

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