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Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

Fish Festival of the Miao People

By Teng Mu

August 29

Play with fish in the Miao Fish Festival.

Play with fish in the Miao Fish Festival.

The Fish Festival is a traditional folk festival in Guizhou and Guangxi Miao ethnic communities. There’s nothing fishy about it — it’s a time to pray for favorable weather and a good harvest.

Originating in the Wanli (万历) period of the Ming Dynasty over 400 years ago, the Fish Festival of the Miao people is held annuallyfrom June 2 to 16 of the Chinese lunar calendar. Miao people gather and hold fishing competitions at the local rivers and ponds. It is said that the more fish are caught, the more luck you’ll have for the rest of year.

People are gathering at the river banks for the opening ceremony. [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
People are gathering at the river banks for the opening ceremony. [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
On the midnight before the festival, several people shout the coming of the festival from the hills. Early the next morning, Miao girls dress themselves in colorful ethnic costumes to welcome the festival. After the opening ceremony, where a cow is hung to death on a tree, the fishing begins. People gather on the river banks and watch the officiant symbolically scatter leaves and pray for good weather.

Fish-catching includes literally catching fish from the sky as well as taking them from the river. While some people jump into the river trying to grab fish, another group tries to catch fish that are thrown into the air. Those who catch one get good luck.

Besides fish-catching, other activities include  bamboo pole dancing, winding Zhusheng (a traditional Miao instrument) and singing Miao songs. The festival usually ends in a happy water fight.

Happy water fight. [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
Happy water fight. [Image Credit: xinhuanet.com]
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