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Water-Splashing Festival (Dai nationality)

Water-Splashing Festival (Dai nationality)

The Water-Splashing Festival is also known as “Buddha’s Birthday” or “Bimai” (New Year) in the Dai language. Dai People in the Dehong region of Xishuang Banna also call it “Shanghan” and “Shangjian” which come from Sanskrit and mean turnover, alteration and transmission and the coming of New Year. The festival is celebrated by Achang, De’ang, Bulang and Wa ethnic groups and also in neighboring countries including Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and Laos.

The Water-Splashing Festival usually takes place in mid-June of the Dai calendar (about 10 days before or after Tomb-Sweeping Day). It is their most important traditional festival and includes folk activities, artistic performances, trade fairs and other activities such as water-sprinkling, markets, dragon-boating, Buddha bathing, chanting sutras, singing, the Peacock Dance and the Elephant dance.

This festival, which is also the Dai New Year, originated in India as part of the ancient traditions of Brahmanism. It was later adopted into Buddhism, thus spread to China between the late 13th and early 14th centuries. With the wider influence of Theravada in Dai regions, the festival has become very popular, to the point where it is now the major folk festival of the Dai people. During the festival everyone, irrespective of age or gender, gets dressed up and carries clean water to the Buddhist Temple. First they bathe the Buddha and then start splashing water on each other for luck, happiness and health. Glittering and translucent water drops in the hands of young people stand for sweet love.

The Water-Splashing Festival comprehensively reflects the Dai nationality’s traditions - water culture, music and dance culture, food culture, costume culture and folk worship. It provides an important window into Dai history and it is of great value to academic researchers to see such an old culture still alive and thriving. In addition non-Dai people not only enjoy the singing and special dances performed during the festival but gain a deeper appreciation and respect for this group, for nature, the value of water, Buddhism and other local characteristics. At the same time the festival strengthens the bonds between scattered groups of Bai people, and also the Xishuang Banna people, improving cooperative communication between Xishuang Banna and Northeastern countries, promoting the development of society, economy and culture.