Splashing Water to Greet the New
What’s your destination for the spring outing? If you are stuck for a place Xishuangbanna and Dehong, which are home to the Dai ethnic group in the southwest frontier of China in Yunnan Province, might well be a good choice, as the annual Water Splashing Festival, a jolly jamboree to greet spring with water, will be observed there in the middle of April.
No other ethnic groups in China are more passionate about water than the Dai people in Yunnan Province. In the eyes of the Dai People, water is not only a symbol of sanctity, beauty and brightness but it can also help everything grow, and is rightly considered the god of life.
Similar to Thailand’s Songkran, the Dai people’s festival sees them splash water on each other to celebrate the New Year based on the Dai calendar, which usually falls in the middle of April.
On that day, all Dai people, young and old, dress in their best, shoulder clean water to Buddhist temples and greet the occasion of Bathing the Buddha which is considered a holy ceremony. But before doing so - people have to add some beautiful and fragrant flowers into the water before gently pouring it to wash away dust on the statue of Buddha.
When the ceremony of bathing the Buddha concludes, people begin splashing water over each other for fun as well as blessings to rinse away sickness and misfortune. Very soon people are thrown into an unbridled spree of water splashing, and everybody gets doused with water. The more water one person sprinkles, the more luck he/she receives, and the happier he/she will be.
The Dai also invite people from other ethnic groups and tourists coming from afar to splash water to celebrate the festival. The scene of water splashing and spraying is all rather jolly, and when getting excited, people will burst out cheering "shui (water), shui and shui".
The festival is usually held along with activities such as a dragon -boat race, a fireworks show, and other festive gatherings. At night, music accompanied by drumbeats reverberates throughout the villages and people enjoy dancing and singing to their hearts' content.The Water-Splashing Festival was once a religious ceremony in Indian Brahmanism and was then absorbed by Buddhism and passed to the Dai region in Yunnan Province via Burma. It has enjoyed a history of seven hundred years up to now. At present, the convention of water splashing has actually become a form of mutual wishing between one another.
Legends about the origin of the festival abound. One of the best known tells of days long-ago when there was a devil in the village where the Dai people lived, doing all manner of evil. All the people hated him but his magic was too powerful for them to overcome. Then one day in the sixth month of the Dai calendar, his seventh wife, who had been kidnapped from the village, tricked him into revealing his weaknesses. As he slept, his wives used his hair to cut off his head. But the head began to burn when it touched the ground, and the fire would die only if one of the women held the head tightly in her arms.
So the seven wives took turns holding the head, each for a period of one year. Every year when they changed, people would splash water on the woman who had been holding the head for the past year to wash away the blood and a year of fatigue.
As time went by, the ritual became a happy -- even raucous -- way to send off the old year and greet the new.