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Torch Festival (Yi Nationality)

The Torch Festival

The Torch Festival is a traditional festival popular in the regions of the Yi people such as Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan. It is also celebrated among other ethnic groups such as the Bai, Naxi, Jinuo and Lahu.The Torch Festival, on June 24th of the lunar calendar, is spectacular.

Long ago it was also called Xinghui Festival, and some scholars believe it to be one of the two New Year annual festivals celebrated in the Yi ten months calendar, which are based on the solar cycle and reflect the winter and summer solstices. Other scholars suggest that the origins of the Torch Festival lie in early worship of fire when Yi ancestors saw that it had the power to repel insects and protect crop growth. During the festival, huge torches of tied dry pine and lightwood are erected in all the villages, with smaller torches placed in front of the door of each household. The torches are lit at nightfall, making the villages as bright as day. At the same time, people walk around the fields and houses, holding small torches, placing them in the corners of the fields. Back in the villages young men and women sing and dance around the big torches that burn throughout the night.  Other activities such as horse races, bullfights, archery, wrestling, tugs-of-wars and swinging are also organized throughout the festival, along with trade fairs and competitions.

There are four categories of events and happenings at the festival, sacred rituals; literature, art and sports; social intercourse, and trade. The focus is on showcasing Yi culture. The Festival has a long history and deep meaning for this ethnic group. It represents a celebration of the people’s beginnings and original fire worship. Preservation of ancient knowledge also provides significant historical and scientific benefit.

As a symbol of Yi traditional culture and as a carrier of traditional music, dance, poetry, food, costume, farming, astronomy and religious ritual the Festival has an important role to strengthen ethnic ties and promote social harmony. Meanwhile it also has a practical function in promoting communication among Yi and other ethnic groups and also national unity. This magnificent festival attracts far more than local support.