Top 10 Chinese Ethnic Minority Festivals

Written by Sally Guo Updated Jan. 26, 2022

China has 55 minority groups except for the Han people. Every minority has some unique festivals to celebrate every year. For example, Dai people's Water Splashing Festival in Xishuangbanna, Tibetan Shoton Festival, and Mongolian Nadam Fair are the best time to experience and study Chinese minorities' culture and life. If travelers want to experience some special minority festivals, you should not miss Chinese top 10 minority festivals when you in China.

Chinese Ethnic Minority Festivals

1. Tibetan New Year

Tibetan New Year, also known as Losar Festival, is the grandest festival for people in Tibet. The Losar Festival is usually one day before or after the Chinese New Year which is around late January or early February. There are a series of religious celebrations from January 1st to 15th in the Tibetan calendar. However, celebrations in the first 3 days are the most important including dancing, singing and general merrymaking of spirit. It has traditional ceremonies of the fighting between good and evil.

The first day of the Losar Festival is also called Gutor is the time to prepare for the New Year. On the second day, religious ceremonies are held in Tibet and local people go to worship in the monasteries and give gifts to the monks. On the third day, it is the Tibetan New Year. If you want to travel in Tibet, China Travel can deal with your Tibet Travel Permit and tailor-make your journey in Tibet.

2. Corban Festival

Chinese Muslims such as the Uygur in Xinjiang and Hui People in Qinghai and Ningxia Provinces celebrate the Corban Festival. The festival, also known as Eid al-Adha is one of the top 3 important festivals for Muslims. It is a festival of sacrifice with a 3-day celebration. It is a festival that Muslim people show their faith and obedience to the Islamic god-Allah. It is said that Allah asked Ibrahim to sacrifice his own son to show his loyalty and Ibrahim planned to kill his son for Allah. Allah had seen Ibrahim's loyalty and sent him a sheep instead of his son to kill in the end.

There are some celebrations during the Corban Festival such as making tasty cakes, killing some prepared livestock, and taking part in the Hajj. In addition, there is a large-scale ceremony around the mosques after the Hajj. During the festival, a lot of restaurants, shops, and hotels are closed. Travelers may have some inconveniences to travel in the Muslim areas.

3. Mongolian Nadam Fair

Nadam Fair means entertainments to celebrate the happiness of harvest. It is widely celebrated by Mongol in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Qinghai, and Xinjiang area. The Nadam Fair is on June 4th in the Chinese lunar calendar (around July or August). The fair is celebrated by physical games and matches for 7 to 10 days. The entertainments consist of traditional Mongolian horseracing, wrestling, archery, tug-of-war, and other performances.

Travelers can go to Ordos near the south edge of Inner Mongolia to see the grand Nadam Fair. The Nadam Fair is also known as a festival of agricultural and livestock goods. Herdsmen get together to change daily goods during the festival.

4. Shoton Festival

The Shoton Festival is one of the most important and the grandest holidays in the Tibetan area. Usually, it is celebrated in late June and early July in the Tibetan calendar and around August or early September in the gregorian calendar. Sho Dun in the Tibetan language means "yogurt banquet" as Tibetan families bring yogurt to welcome Buddhists who finish their Nazaritism. Nowadays, there is a lot of celebrations including magnificent "Buddha Displaying", Tibetan Opera, and musical and orchestic performances. Besides, there are yak competitions and horsemanship performances.

The Tibetan Opera performances are held in Norbulingka- Darai Lama's summer palace. However, the grand "Buddha Displaying" near the Drepung Monastery is the most famous and attractive so that travelers should not miss during the festival. It is also known as the "Buddha Display Festival" or "Tibetan Opera Festival". Travelers can view a large-scale celebration in Lhasa and later in Shigatse.

5. Water Splashing Festival

Water Splashing Festival is the most important and ceremonious festival for Dai people in Xishuangbanna. It is widely celebrated by the largest number of people among 25 Ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province. The festival is Dai people's New Year celebrated around mid-April for 3 to 7 days. The first day is called Mairi in Dai language, a similar festival like Chinese New Year's Eve. The second day is Laori and the third day is Dai's New Year which is the most glorious and the luckiest day.

In the morning, Dai people dressed in festive costumes come to wash Buddha in the temple and then start to splash each other with best wishes. Xishuangbanna in the southwest corner of Yunnan Province is the best place to experience the Dai people's Water Splashing Festival and their culture.

6. Sisters Meals Festival

March 15th in the Chinese lunar calendar is the Miao people's Sisters Meals Festival. Miao women cook colorful glutinous rice and change gifts for luckiness during the festival. The rice is made of glutinous rice and wildflowers and leaves selected by Miao girls. At the same time, there are bullfighting, lusheng performances, singing, dancing, and other celebrations. Travelers can experience the festival in Taizhou County and other parts of the southeast of Guizhou Province.

Other famous large-scale festivals of Miao people consist of Lusheng Festival and Bullfight Festival. The Kaili International Lusheng Festival is the most spectacular among the Lusheng festivals celebrated on January 18th to 20th in the Chinese lunar calendar. Miao people's Bullfight Festival lies on April 8th in the Chinese lunar calendar. Miao girls who are not married prepare some food and get together and Miao boys bring their water buffaloes to take part in the festival.

7. March Fair

March Fair is Bai people's traditional festival to change goods. It is celebrated in the west of Dali Ancient Town in Yunnan Province from March 15th to 21th in the Chinese lunar calendar (around Mid-April) with a celebration of singing, dancing, and horseracing.

Nowadays, March Fair extends 5 to 10 days. Xu Xiake, a famous geographer and traveler praised the large-scale March Fair in the Ming Dynasty. It is not only a great chance to enjoy the Bai people's unique culture, but also an excellent time to select some amazing souvenirs. Travelers can also enjoy great nightlife and wander around the ancient town. Besides, Erhai Lake, Cangshan Mountain, and Butterfly Spring are hot destinations in Dali.

8. Drying Clothes Festival

Yao people in Longji Rice Terraced Fields which is located in Longsheng County in Guilin City take out all the clothes to dry on June 6th in the Chinese lunar calendar, which is beautiful and colorful scenery of the Yao Villages. The houses are full of colorful clothes which become a new highlight of Longji Rice Terraced Fields.

Meanwhile, there are folk celebrations by the Yao people. In the evening, Yao people use torches to show Seven Stars with the Moon which is a famous scenic spot in the area. Jinkeng Rice Terraced Field in Dazhai Yao Village is the main place to see the Clothes Drying Festival. Travelers can experience not only Yao people's culture in Dazhai Village but also enjoy Zhuang people's life and customs in Ping'an and Guzhuang Zhuang Villages. In addition, Longji Rice Terraced Fields is one of the best destinations to photography the rice terraced fields in China.

9. Torch Festival

Although Bai and Naxi people celebrate the Torch Festival, the Yi people's Torch Festival is the most famous and the grandest. The festival is held on June 24th or 25th (around August in the Gregorian calendar.) with a 3-day celebration popular in Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan Provinces. Xichang in Sichuan Province has the largest-scale celebration of the Torch Festival.

The Yi People thought the fire can help the Yi hero to prevail over the evil God who sent numerous grasshoppers to destroy agriculture. So the Yi people held a lot of torches in order to fight the evil. The Yi people will get together with torches and held a series of celebrations including horseracing, bullfight, wrestling, music, and dance. Travelers can view a sea of fire in the evening and take part in the exciting bonfires.

10. Knife-Pole Festival

Jan. 15th in Chinese lunar Festival is Lisu people's Knife-Pole Festival which is held in Lushui County in Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province. Several Lisu robust men dance in the fire with difficult acrobatics. On the second day, they tie 36 sharp knives on 2 more than 20 meters long wood poles and perform a breathtaking show on the poles.

Now the traditional sacrificial ceremony Knife-Pole Festival has turned to Lisu strong men's great time to show fantastic unforgettable performances. Knife plays an irreplaceable role during the festival. To climb a mountain of swords or plunge into a sea of flames are the most breathtaking ceremonies among the celebrations. It is said that the festival is to memorialize an ancient Han hero who had helped the Lisu People to get rid of the invading enemies.

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