Important Shui Festivals

The Suis have their own lunar calendar. It differs from the Chinese lunar calendar in that the eighth lunar month marks the end of a year and the ninth month marks the beginning of a new year. According to the record of "Shui Letter", a year is divided into twelve months and four seasons (spring, summer, autumn, and winter). Before the festivals, you can hear rataplan, the bang of the drum, all over the villages. The biggest Sui festival is the "duan" holiday which is celebrated with great pomp after the autumn harvest at the beginning of the 11th lunar month. Garbed in their colorful costumes, the Shuis gather in their village to watch horse races and plays, and to feast for days on end.

The two other important Shui festivals of the Shui people are the Dragon Memorial Ceremony on the third day of the third lunar month and the Mountain and Forest Memorial Ceremony on the 6th and 24th of the 6th lunar month. At these festivals, Shui dance to rhythm of bronze drums and the music of Chinese wind pipe, entertaining guests with a five-color meals and distilled spirits and rum.

Shui Dan Festival

The Duan Festival is the grandest in the year for Suis. It is calculated according to the Shui Book and Shui calendar, which divides a year into twelve months and four seasons, but it takes the lunar ninth month as the beginning of the year and the lunar eighth month as the end of a year and uses the twelve earthly branches to designate days. The Duan Festival last from the last ten-day period of the twelfth month to the second month next year in Shui calendar (that is the last ten-day period of the eighth month to the first ten-day period of the tenth month in lunar year). People in different places celebrate the festival at different times in turn according to the tradition that every pig day (called "Hai" day in Chinese) is one of the twelve earthly branches). The Duan Festival is also called the "Gua Festival". The Shui call it "borrowing Duan".

It is a Shui tradition that "if you spend the Duan Festival, you can't spend the Mao (one of the twelve earthly branches, which means rabbit) Festival, and vise versa". In addition, the order in which different places hold the feasts should not be reversed or mixed. A relatively consistent legend about the origin of the custom is: in ancient times, the forefather of the Suis-Gongdeng had two sons. The older one was assigned to live in the upper Neiwatao area, the younger one was assigned to live in the Jiuqian area below. They agreed to meet every year at their father's home for a feast after the harvest. Later the brothers felt that the distances were too far, and it was not convenient for them to come and go to their father's house, so they decided that the older brother celebrate the Duan Festival at his home and the younger brother celebrate the Mao Festival at his home. Since then Shui people have spent the festival with members of the same clan.

Before the Duan Festival, every family sweeps their yard and tidies up their house. The day before their feast day, villagers beat drums and gongs to say goodbye to the old year and meet the New Year. They butcher chickens and ducks and eat newly harvested rice. They also stew soup with fresh fish and prepare a delicious soup to entertain relatives and friends. At New Year's Eve (the night of Dog) and the first morning of the New Year (the Pig day) villagers offer sacrifices to ancestors. They avoid eating meat except fish, and there is no meat except fish in the offerings. The main dish in the offerings is fish stuffed with chives, because, Shui legends, that the ancestors used to drive out all kinds of diseases with a medicine made of nine kinds of vegetables, fish and shrimp. To make the fish: put chives and condiment like chili, onion, ginger and garlic into the fish's stomach and boil or steam the fish in clear water after it is tied up.

During the Duan Festival, young men and women gather around the "Duan slope" to play instruments, sing and dance. And all kinds of entertaining activities are held there, such as horse races, bullfight, theatrical performances, films, and feasts with relatives and friends. Sometimes over ten thousand people—including Miaos, Dongs, Bouyeis, Zhuangs, Yaos and Han—show up and take part in the festival.

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