Qing Ming Festival (Grave Sweeping Festival) – Early April – Everywhere
The Qing Ming Festival is celebrated all over China, and is a way for families to pay their respects to the ancestors by visiting their graves. In addition to visiting relatives’ grave sites, the holiday involves a celebration that includes a feast, song and dance and kite flying.
This festival dates back over 1,000 years, when Emperor Xuanzong declared that the wealthy Chinese were holding too many extravagant ceremonies for their ancestors, and so only on this day were they allowed to pay their respects. The day’s observance became an important part of Chinese culture as it remains today.
Water Splashing Festival – Mid-April – Xishuangbanna
The Water Splashing Festival is celebrated by the Dai people in Xishuangbanna, located in southern Yunnan. The Water Splashing Festival is part of a week-long celebration that falls during the 6th month of the Dai calendar (usually in April). It is actually the third day of the Bai people’s New Year celebration, though it is the most well known. The water is a way to “wash away the dirt from the previous year,” and bring happiness to the new one.
Horse Racing Festival – May – June, Shangri La
This Tibetan festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, and its main location of celebration in Yunnan is the Shangri-La grasslands. Thousands of Tibetans come and camp out for several days, with horse traders assembling in their finest silk to socialize, trade and celebrate with song and dance.
Yi Torch Festival – July-August, Lugu Lake, Lijiang, Yuanyang
This festival is celebrated to commemorate the legendary Yi Atilaba, who drove away a plague of locusts using torches. It is celebrated on the 24th day of the 6th lunar month, and has been updated to feature modern rituals such as a beauty contest, horse racing, dance shows, and of course elaborate fire displays.