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The Qiang people, one of China’s 56 ethnic minorities, are at risk for extinction, especially their annual New Year festival where they give thanks for prosperity and their harmonious lives.
The Qiangs, native to Sichuan Province, celebrate their New Year festival on the first day of the 10th lunar month, as they have done for centuries.
The festival is declining in participation because of circumstances beyond the Qiangs’ control. Their villages were devastated by the 2008 earthquake plus young people are moving to the big cities where they lose interest in their culture. UNESCO named the festival on its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2009.
On festival day the Qiangs wear their best ceremonial outfits to pray at temples, where they offer goats as sacrifices to the gods and mountains. The Qiangs also offer sacrifices at home, as they pay respect to nature, their ancestors, and China.
A shibi or priest leads people in traditional dancing to the beat of sheepskin drums. Senior Qiangs pass on their traditions and culture to younger generations.
The Qiang live primarily in Wenchuan, Beichuan, Maoxian and Heishui counties.
One noted village is Taoping, famous for its fortress, stone houses and watchtowers. Taoping is 170 kilometers from Chengdu. Catch any bus from Chadianzi station headed for Wenchuan and get off at Taoping.
Another is Luobozhai, the largest Qiang village in China. It is located 10 kilometers from Wenchuan and easily reachable by bus.