Yi Torch Festival

The Yi Torch festival features courtship rituals, music, dancing around huge bonfires and bloodless bullfights. In the daytime, a ceremony is held to offer prayers to the gods or spirits associated with their lives. Prayers to earth God are made with chicken blood. After sunset, people light torches to send the gods backs. The celebration is all bustle and excitement. The Yi people slaughter goats and chickens, drink liquor, and they also invite their best friends to a big feast.

"The Torch Festival" has traditionally been celebrated by many Chinese ethnic groups around 24th day of the sixth lunar month. Before the village torch is lit people gather around it and drink rice wine. The village elders use a ladder to climb to the top of the torch as they distribute fruit and food to the villagers while they boisterously sing the "Torch Festival Song." The torch is then solemnly lit. The villagers light their torches off the village torch and sing and dance and eventually make their ways to their homes and light the torches there.

Because Yi people believe that torches get rid of evil and ghosts, they light up every corner of their house after the torch is lit. In some villages, torch teams go from house to house, and then gather at the edge of a village, or on slope or in fields to play torch games and hold a fire party, where young men and women decked out in their finest festival dress sing and dance and party all night long. An ancient poem describing proceeding centuries ago: "The mountain seems wrapped by rosy cloud; Uneven torches move back and forth with people which are like ten thousand of lotus flowers blossoming in mirage, and stars all over the sky fall down to the human world."

During the festival, Yis in all villages walk around fields with torches in hands and plant pine torches on field ridges in the hope of driving away insect pests. After making their rounds, the Yi villagers gather around bonfires, playing moon guitars (a four-stringed plucked instrument with a moon-shaped sound box) and mouth organs, dancing and drinking wine through the night to pray for a good harvest.

The length of the celebration varies from three to seven days. When it comes, some people butcher chicken and pig, and some butcher cattle and sheep as sacrifices offered to the ruler of heaven, the mother of earth and ancestors. The Yi also pray for the safety of humans and domestic animals and for an abundant harvest of all food crops. At nightfall, torches are lit and villages compete to have the best torch. Recreational, sports and entertaining activities include antiphonal singing (alternate singing by two choirs or singers), dancing, bullfight, horse race, wrestling, archery, and tug-of-wars. Business and trade activities are carried out.

(c.o."Origin of the Yi Torch Festival")

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