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Ziyuan Water Lantern and Song Festival

Ziyuan Water Lantern and Song Festival

Written by Candice SongUpdated Nov. 22, 2021
  • Celebrated: Aug. 31 to Sep. 1
  • Location: Guilin

Ziyuan Water Lantern and Song Festival is one of the popular festivals for a local day tour. It is held in Ziyuan County from the thirteenth to the fourteenth day of the seventh lunar month.

The festival includes rich and varied activities with strong local characteristics, like folk song competitions, cock-fighting, and dragon-lion dancing. Hundreds of people floating water lanterns in the local river makes a fantastic scene at night that you can't miss.


  • Amazing scenes of colorful water lanterns
  • Local folk song competitions
  • Rich and colorful activities
  • Miao minority handicrafts
  • Tasty local specialties
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Making Water Lanterns (做河灯)

Local people prefer to make water lanterns themselves. They believe it's more sincere to memorize their forefathers with their own handiwork. The materials for making water lanterns are sold in many shops in Ziyuan County. You may learn how to make one from the hospitable local residents.

Floating Water Lanterns (放河灯)

It is the major part and the liveliest activity of the festival. In the nights of the festival, local people float the lighted lanterns on the river, so as to memorize their forefathers and to avoid being cursed with disasters. The lanterns carry people's best wishes to their departed loved ones.

Photo Contest (河灯摄影比赛)

There is a photo contest held by a local photography club. Shutterbugs who have taken pictures of the wonderful night scenes can participate after the festival. Information about the contest will be publicized at http://www.ziyuan.gov.cn:8207/. Don't forget your camera!

Art Performance (文艺演出)

Performers from different minorities get together and show their ethnic performances, like the Lusheng Dance (Miao minority), the Caitang Dance (Dong minority), the Qipan Dance (Han traditional), dialogues, comedy sketches, etc.

Folk Song Competition (山歌比赛)

It is usually held in Ziyuan Town Square. Local people traditionally sing folk songs to pray for their descendants and celebrate life. However, it has gradually become a regular entertainment activity. The competition will give you a taste of authentic Chinese minority folk songs.

Agricultural Fair and Commodity Sales Exhibition (农产品与商品展销会)

Held in the Northern Development Zone of Ziyuan Town, major goods for exhibition and sale include high-quality agricultural products, green food, organic food, and handmade crafts, which are good for souvenirs.

Local specialties: red grapes, tomatoes, kiwi fruit, organic tea, handicrafts, national costumes, etc.


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Coming from folklore and old religious-based customs, the Ziyuan Water Lantern and Song Festival can be dated back to the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 BC). And the custom of floating water lanterns can be traced to the Tang Dynasty (618–907 BC). Local people once celebrated the festival as a blessing ceremony. Nowadays it has become a combination of tradition, entertainment, and tourism.

Travel Essentials

  • Entry: Free
  • How to get there: Ziyuan County is located in  northeast Guilin. Lying at the foot of Mao'er Shan (猫儿山, Cat Mountain, the highest peak in South China), it is 107 kilometers from Guilin city. You can easily take a bus from Guilin bus station, which costs only 30 yuan and takes about 2 hours.
  • What you need: Remember to bring a thick coat to keep warm at night, because the temperature difference between day and night in the mountains is large.
  • Nearby attractions: Longdong Gap, Tianmen Mountain, Danxia Hot Spring Tourism Resort, Zi River Rafting, Wupai River Rafting, Baoding Fall, Bajiaozhai National Forest Park and National Geological Park, etc.
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