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Dragon Feast, Yunnan

On the 8th day of the lunar New Year, closer towards dinnertime, all the households of the Yi village Baoshao brought out a table and stools. Nearly a hundred tables were gathered in a long line, lining up the length of the main street and the square of the village- like a dragon, hence literally the name Long Dragon Feast 长龙宴. This unique event belongs to the Hani and Yi Minorities who inhabit the fabulous terraced fields of Ailao Mountains around Yuanyang. Hani people call it AMATU.

All people in the village had dinner together to celebrate the beginning of rice-planting season, and worshipped for a prosperous year. Women and children dressed flamboyantly in the distinctive Yi style. The members of each family sit around its own table and brought along foodstuffs and drinks. A few rounds of fire crackers were released around the Dragon Tree before dinner. Food included pork and pork dishes, fish (reared in the rice terraces), vegetables, tofu and so on. There were many rounds of rice wine offerings during dinner, accompanied by folk songs singing by beautiful girls in their own language. All in all, the atmosphere was one of tremendous joy, rowdiness and fun.

One special feature after diner was the celebration of one year olds by villagers. Both parents of those who were born during the year went around from one table to another offering cigarettes (to men), candies, blue-dyed eggs (some does) and rice wine to everyone. They did so while carrying their babies on their backs. This was a fabulously joyous occasion for them and it was considered great honour by the parents to serve everyone on this occasion. The “guests” gave some money to the baby as they were served.

Actually different villages have different time for this festival. Hani people celebrate Amatu between October and December, the most famous one is in the Habo 哈播 village near Luchun 绿春. Yi villages hold this event during Chinese New Year.

The day before Dragon Feast, a special ceremony for the 'Dragon Tree' will be held. Each village normally has a plot of forests within it. One of the trees in the forest is chosen as the Dragon Tree by a committee of seniors and village officials every year. These villages traditionally and still rely on their rice plantations as a means of living and livelihood. Therefore it is of tremendous importance for them to have good weather every year to ensure a good harvest. A Dragon Tree is selected and honored as a means to placate all that are mighty to ensure a good year at the fields. A Dragon Tree is selected for its look- strength, uprightness, the beauty of its branching and so on. Once selected, the tree remains as the Dragon Tree until it lost its strength/beauty.

At Baoshan, 保山, on the 7th day of the lunar New Year a village senior is selected by ballot to head the Tree Honouring Ceremony on the 8th day. A low barricade of rocks will be erected around the selected tree and a red cloth will be draped around its trunk. The main festivity, which is the Dragon Feast, is held on the 8th day.

On the 8th day, pigs will be slaughtered and a big feast is cooked up at the village community kitchen. All the food and ingredients are provided from the village funds and by donations. There is a hive of activities in the kitchen as well as outside, in the village square. All throughout the day, there are various activities including basketball competitions and so on.

During our visit in Yuanyang in February 2007, we were very lucky to be able to participate this amazing festival in Baoshan (保山), a Yi village close to the popular terrace viewpoint of MungPin(Laohuzui).

Please go to our album for more photos and video.

Written by CBP in March 2007.

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