A traditional festival of the Dong Ethnic People in Southeast Guizhou Province, Dong New Year is celebrated at different times of the year from one area to another, mostly falling from the 1st to the 11th of the eleventh month of the Chinese lunar year. Some Dong celebrate it during the end of the tenth month.
Before the Dong New Year Festival, the Dong ethnic people are very busy preparing. They clean their houses, make rice cakes, and slaughter animals, and they also make a sacrifice to their ancestors. Burning joss sticks and candles, and offering sacrificial objects is a tradition dating back thousands of years.
During the festival the Dong wear traditional costumes and invite their honored guests to a feast. They also send various kinds of foods to their friends and relatives, including pickled vegetables, frozen fishes, and ziba (/dzrr-baa/ cakes made from cooked glutinous rice pounded into paste). Normally ziba receivers return an equivalent amount of ziba to what they have received to its senders during the New Year Festival, which is called 'returning ziba' by the locals.
A number of performances are also held during Dong New Year. The highlights are playing of the lusheng (a wind instrument made from bamboo) and buffalo fighting, attracting crowds of thousands.
Young Dong couples in Kaili make full use of the festival to hold their wedding ceremonies. They invite their friends and relatives, adding much luster to the festival.
The local legend about the origin of Dong New Year goes like this:
There was an old chieftain who enjoyed high prestige and commanded universal respect among the Dong people. He refused to pay tribute to the Han emperor, and it led to war between the Han and the Dong.
When the Dong villagers were encircled by the Han army, the old chieftain stepped forward and gave himself up for the lives of the villagers. He was captured and exiled to guard the frontier.
The old chieftain was allowed to return to his hometown 10 years later, and he arrived on the 30th of the tenth month. All the villagers beat drums and gongs and gathered together to meet him, and they made that day New Year's Day for the Dong in memory of his return.Dong New Year was initially celebrated among the Dong of Liping County, Rongjiang County, and Congjiang County, but has now spread to all Dong people.