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Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

The oldest oriental Valentine’s Day

By Teng Mu

September 19

A dating festival that started more than 2000 years ago is just one of the Miao people’s famous celebrations.

A dating festival that started more than 2000 years ago is just one of the Miao people’s famous celebrations.

In the center of Qiandongnan Autonomous Prefecture, Taijiang County has the largest density of Miao people anywhere in the world. Two thousand years ago a great Miao migration occurred and many settled in the area. They produced a vibrant local culture with about a dozen different festivals including the Fish Festival, which celebrates our gilled aquatic friends, the Lusheng Festival and the Slope-climbing Festival, which feature folk songs, dances and handicrafts, and of course, the Sister Festival, Asia’s oldest festival dedicated to love.

Miao mother dressing her daughter for the festival. [Image Credit: photos-tock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
Miao mother dressing her daughter for the festival. [Image Credit: photos-tock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
This year’s Sister Festival commenced April 19 and attracted a sea of tourists from all around China. As the name implies, it’s a festival that revolves around the girls of the region. In the old times girls would find their lovers by inviting boys for “Sister Meals,” mostly made of colored sticky rice, where they exchanged tokens of love. Now the festival has extended to a wider range of activities such as song and dance performances and the display of Miao costumes.

Miao girls eating Sister Meals. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
Miao girls eating Sister Meals. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
Eating Sister Meals is the most important ritual at the festival. The girls put different tokens into the meal to convey their feelings to the boys.

Catching fish and shrimp in the river is another festival custom, where a girl from one village has the chance to go fishing with a young man from another.

Stepping drum activity.[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
Stepping drum activity.[Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
Young girls also partake in a costume competition which involves being dressed up by their parents and stepping on drums in a field designed especially for this purpose.

As night falls, boys and girls sing Miao songs and express their feelings to each other.

Miao girls wearing splendid Miao costumes. [Image Credit: photos-tock.china.com.cn/Zhang Hui]
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