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Sanyuesan Festival

Sanyuesan Festival (March 3 of Chinese Lunar Calendar) is a traditional festival in China. It is observed and celebrated by many Chinese ethnic groups, including the Han people, as the festival for  lovers to express their love for each other in various ways. In a sense, it is the Valentine's Day in China.

It is said that March 3 is the birthday of the Yellow Emperor (Huang-di), a legendary Chinese sovereign and cultural hero who is considered in Chinese mythology to be the ancestor of all Chinese people, including all the ethnic groups in China. Various ethnic groups celebrate this festival in their own specific ways, usually involving lovers to express their love by means of dancing, singing, chatting softly, or mutual exchange of love letters or gifts. DU Fu (712–770), a great Chinese poet of Tang Dynasty record the festival in a line in his poem like this: “ Folks enjoy the fine weather of the approaching spring on Sanyuesan, appreciating groups of stunning beauties of the royal family strolling on the riverside of Chang’an” (Note: Chang’an was the capital city of China, the biggest and most prosperous city in the world at that time). 


The Han people celebrate this festival by enjoying beautiful spring scene by rivers, meeting lovers, appreciating flowers, having song parties, planting willow twigs.

Due to the close connections and mutual influence between Han and other ethnic groups in China, Sanyuesan Festival is also observed by many other Chinese ethnic groups as their major or biggest festival. It is recorded that in Song Dynasty (960—1276), the ethnic groups in the current Guangxi Province celebrated Sanyuesan Festival by singing love songs and making friends between various tribes.

The local Li ethnic groups observes Sanyuesan Festival as their biggest festival. It is a festival for praying for the harvest of crops and successful hunting. However, the most important content and all the major celebrating activities are related to love and wedding. Therefore, Sanyuesan is also called Day of Love (Funianfu, in Li language) by Li people.


From ancient time, in every Sanyuesan Festival, Li people will dress their best and most formal ethnic clothes, and carry bottles of homemade rice wine (a wine that tastes like sake in Japan) and delicious rice in bamboo containers to gather together for this carnival, usually in a palm tree wood or rubber plant wood with a big open area. They play unique music instruments,  dance and sing folk songs with they beloved ones, including family members, old and new friends. When they want to have a rest from this traditional high time, young lads will go to fish in streams, girls will cook and make some Li-style BBQ, other people lay out the ding sum (snacks) and pray in front of a statue of Guanyin Goddess for harvest and good luck. After the praying ceremony, young people will have some sport entertainments such as arrow shooting, coconut tree climbing, playing on the swings to have fun together. When it turns dark, they will dance around bonfire in various fabulous, energetic, and interactive ways. The jewellery and ornaments of girls glitter in the night. Young man will carry colourful umbrellas and dance around girls to flirt and express love. If a girl and a boy like each other, they will go to a quieter corner in the wood and exchange the love gift they prepared in advance. In most cases, boys will give a jewellery item and girls will make a Li brocade colourful belt as the presents. Of course, they will talk softly and gently for hours till the dawn comes.


Sanyuesan Festival is widely celebrated by many ethnic groups of China. It reflects the close connection, mutual influence, and friendship of all the ethnic groups in China.




More pictures of Sanyuesan Festival



Girls of Li ethnic group are famous for their singing and dancing skills


Boys dance energetically in a carnival show of the Sanyuesan Festival


Li girls dance in high glee.

Their dress is a perfect conbination of traditional and modern styles.