The Water-sprinkling Festival, known as the Pōshuǐ jié in Chinese, is a colourful and festive celebration that has been celebrated by the Dai ethnic minority in China for centuries. It is a time of joy, reflection, and renewal as the Dai people mark the Solar New Year with a range of cultural and religious activities.
The Water-sprinkling Festival occurs around Tomb-sweeping Day, which falls on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox. This usually means the festival occurs from April 13 to 15, according to the Gregorian calendar. It lasts for three or four days, with the first day being devoted to cultural and artistic performances, and the second day being the main day of water sprinkling.
On the second day of the festival, people of all ages, dressed in their newest and best clothes, gather together to splash water at each other with great enthusiasm. This activity is more than just a fun way to beat the heat; it is also a significant religious ritual. Water is considered a symbol of purification, and splashing water on others is a way of expressing goodwill and wishing them good luck and prosperity.
The festival’s third day is devoted to the exchange of goods and the tradition of “losing packages.” Young men and women get together to exchange small gifts and lost items, which are believed to bring good luck and fortune. This day is also marked by a dragon boat race on the Lancang River, and at night, the river banks are lit up with colourful lanterns.
One of the most significant rituals of the Water-sprinkling Festival is the “Bathing the Buddha” ceremony, which takes place on the third day. This involves coaxing a Buddhist statue out of the temple and splashing it with water as a symbol of purification and renewal. After this ritual is completed, people take to the streets to splash water on each other in a joyous celebration of life, good fortune, and the start of a new year.
The Water-sprinkling Festival is similar to the Songkran Festival celebrated in neighbouring Thailand, but it has unique characteristics that reflect the culture and beliefs of the Dai people. It is a time for family gatherings, reunions with old friends, and making new ones. It is a time for reflection, renewal, and expressing goodwill towards others.
The festival has evolved over time, but it remains an essential part of the Dai people’s cultural heritage. It is a time for celebrating life and expressing gratitude for all the good things in it. The Water-sprinkling Festival is a beautiful, mind-blowing, and human-like celebration that captures the spirit of the Dai people and their deep connection to the land, culture, and religion.