China Seasonal Events
A country as large and with such a depth of history as China has many festivals throughout the year ranging from the well known such as Chinese New Year to the largely unheard of Weifang International Kite Festival held in little visited Shandong province.
Although the majority of people taking China tours do not end up visiting a festival it is well worth checking to see if any are operating along the route of your itinerary at the time you are travelling.
Despite most festivals attracting huge numbers of local people with associated transport and accommodation difficulties it is well worth trying to fit one into your itinerary. Below you will find a list of the more popular and tourist orientated festivals and seasonal events although there are many more.
Chinese New Year
Exact times vary but usually occurring in January or February according to the lunar calendar. This can be a fascinating time to be travelling around China as a large percentage of China’s 1.3 billion people are doing the same. he abiding memory is the spectacle of fireworks and the sound of firecrackers. Temple fairs are also held throughout China at this time and are well worth visiting.
Harbin Ice & Snow Festival
China’s premiere winter event where the art of snow and ice sculpture is taken to extremes with huge structures being built by teams from all over the world – particularly Russia. The festival lasts 1 month and usually starts in early January and ends around the time of the Lantern Festival which marks the end of Chinese New Year. Held in icy Harbin, capital of Northern China’s Heilongjiang province.
The Lantern Festival is a Chinese festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar year in the Chinese calendar and traditionally marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. It is well worth trying to be in Harbin at this time as it coincides with the Ice Lantern Festival there. Pingyao is another good place to see it.
Pingyao International Photography Festival
Held each September in the atmospheric Ming Dynasty city of Pingyao in Shanxi province this event is steadily gaining worldwide recognition and would be a highlight of China for any professional or amateur photographers out there. The festival lasts one week and consists of exhibitions and workshops with much of the contemporary photography providing a wonderful contrast with this ancient city.
Dragon Boat Racing Tuen Ng Festival
Usually occurring at the end of May or beginning of June it is associated mostly with Hong Kong for the colourful Dragon Boat races. It now being steadily rediscovered on the Mainland where it is called the Duanwu festival. Ho Hai lake in Beijing now stages dragon boat races since the holiday’s reintroduction.
A day for family reunion and the eating of Mooncakes. Typical mooncakes are round pastries with a thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste is surrounded by a relatively thin crust. Mooncakes are rich, heavy, and dense compared with most Western cakes and pastries. They are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea.
Qing Ming Jie
Held in early April and sometimes referred to as Tomb Sweeping Day the Qing Ming Jie is a day for remembering your dead ancestors and doing a bit of tidying up work at their grave sites. Offerings of food and drink at graves and the burning of paper money are commonplace, especially in the countryside amongst the rural population who take this day very seriously.
October 1st National Day
China’s most politically important holiday commemorates the 1 October 1949 Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China in Tianmen Square, Beijing in front of a crowd of 1 million. Nowadays it can feel like that many people are there on the night of the 1st October but it is worth a visit to see the crowds and floral displays dotted about the square. National day also marks the start of the Golden Week holiday.
Qufu International Confucian Festival
The great sage has his annual moment from 26th September to the 10th October in Qufu, Shandong province. Festivities are centred around his mansion and in the temple and forest graveyard to celebrate the anniversary of his birth in 551 BC there are music and dance performances, exhibitions of his life, calligraphy demonstrations and a grand ceremony to offer sacrifices to Confucius.
Shaolin International Martial Arts Festival
Held from September the 10th to 15th each year at the 1,500 year old Shaolin Si in Henan Province. This festival attracts martial arts enthusiasts from around the world for performances and contests. The Shaolin monks reached their height during the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368 to 1644) but dates back to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618 to 907).
Qingdao International Beer Festival
Luckily for beer lovers China has Qingdao, probably China’s most famous beer and perhaps its best as well. It originated in the coastal resort of Qingdao which was a German concession. The Germans wouldn’t settle anywhere without a ready supply of beer and so Qingdao came to be. Held in August each year the festival consists of parades of floats, beer drinking and, oddly, sports competitions.
Shoton Festival Tibet
Held in Lhasa, Tibet each August (dates varying) “Shoton” actually means “Yoghurt Banquet” and comes from the tradition of monks being confined to monasteries during the summer at the end of which local people treat the monks to lots and lots of yoghurt! These days giant Tangkha scrolls are displayed (known as “Sunning the Buddha”) and there are performances of Tibetan Opera as well as plenty of yoghurt.
Wutai Mountain Festival
This month long temple fair from July 25th August to 25th is held in Taihua town by Wutai Shan, Shanxi province. It is a great gathering of Buddhist monks with a horse fair, ritualistic ceremonies, folk art activities and performances of chanting and other Buddhist rites all set in and around the great mountain.
Weifang International Kite Festival
Held from April the 20th to 25th each year in Weifang, Shandong province which has a 600 year history of kite making and is the location of the International Kites Federation and museum. The festival itself has competitions for kite flying and design and the sky swarms with colourful kites throughout the festivities.
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