Blessing of 2017 and New Year Cultures in Different Areas of Garze


Garze prefecture has a long history and culture. With a rich history and profound culture, its New Years ...

Garze prefecture has a long history and culture. With a rich history and profound culture, its New Year’s culture varies in different forms, such as Tibetan New Year, Chinese New Year, and Yi People’s New Year in Jiulong. In Danba, the New Year is called Jiarong Cultural Center.

2017 is coming. Every corner of Garze is now decorated with different festive ornaments, and the whole area looks harmonious and joyful. The New Year’s atmosphere has spread to every street corner and alley way of Garze.

How does each city and county celebrate the New Year? Which folk cultures and customs have been preserved?

Glamorous Shiqu: Folk cultural activities welcome the Spring Festival

During the Spring Festival and Tibetan New Year, the entire area of Shiqu County is decorated with different festive ornaments and harmonized by joyful air. During this time, all kinds of attractive and interesting folk cultural sport events will be held: horseracing, folk sports, Zhenda town’s Guozhuang Dance, Xuba Place’s Guozhuang Dance and so on. All of these events serve as cultural feasts for the locals.

Xinlong’s Tibetan 13: An auspicious number that welcomes the New Year

“13” means the local New Year, and the specific time is Tibetan December’s (rooster month) 13th day. There are lots of legendary stories about the origin of the “13”. In general, there are three versions.

People in a few places of Xinlong celebrate their New Year in Tibetan November (monkey month), the following year’s Tibetan January (dog month), and Tibetan March (mouse month), and this is a special area of culture. Today, when different ethnic minorities fuse in tighter bonds and opening up is increasing constantly, the people of Xinlong are still strongly attached to the “13” and never turn away from it, and even “13” has evolved into an auspicious number, infiltrating all aspects of the locals’ work life and personal life. This number is like the auspicious number “8” (8’s pronunciation is similar to that of the Chinese character “发(fa)”, which is symbolized as harvesting wealth in Chinese folk culture) in China.

Danba’s Jiarong Calendar New Year

People in Danba stay in white Tibetan houses, use boot-shaped kettles, and eat fatty pork and Huoshaozi dough. These traditions are impressive, and are said to be connected with the Jiarong calendar New Year’s customs.

Every Jiarong family begins the process of preparation on or before November 1st in the Jiarong calendar. They begin to prepare to brush their houses to white, and women are now prepared to make Huoshaozi dough and other things. When the 12th, 13th, and 14th of the month arrives, the celebration enters its peak season. That is when the whole village will begin burning pine and cypress twigs to worship their ancestors, hoping their ancestor Amigerdong returns to the human world and bring peace and happiness to the humans on earth.

There is also a story about Jiarong Calendar New Year:

Legend has it that Amierdong had an evil face with very long and sharp teeth. He ate so much that his family couldn’t provide him with enough food to eat, and so his mother sent him to the forest to search for food. Upon leaving, he told his mother, “If you need my help someday, please take out a wool bag and call my name here.”

Many years later, his tribe was attacked by the monster Nianbo and his three sons, and the leader of the tribe asked his mother to invite Amierdong to leave the forest and help them. If he could defeat Nianbo, the power of the tribe leader would be handed to Amierdong.

Through his wise fight against the monsters, the human world was finally saved from evil, and the tribe leader kept his promise. Since Jiarong was guarded by a hero, other monsters and ghosts dare not come and disturb the living of the tribe. Later, the people living here set the day Amierdong defeated Nianbo as the New Year.

During the day, the locals will hold all varieties of ceremonies to commemorate their ancestors, and especially hope they can get the protection of Amierdong and weed off every difficulty and all evil spirits. During the time, seniors of each family would visit their ancestors’ tombs, bringing corn flour, tea, lard, paper money, cypress twigs, and other sacrificial items to pay their respect to their passed ancestors.

The adults of each family begin to stick couplets and door gods’ paintings on their doors. After breakfast, parents begin to prepare New Year’s banquet, which usually includes cold dishes, cooked dishes, steamed dishes, fried dishes, and so on, with 16 plates of dishes and nine bowls of dishes which are usually called “nine big bowls”. The 16 plates usually surround the nine bowls, like a group of subjects worship their king. The combined smell the food just makes you feel hungry!

Residents of Danba have a habit of staying up throughout the night on New Year’s Eve. Legend has it that Jiarong’s protector, Amierdong, will patrol the whole village during the night and weigh your lifespan with his scales. Those who sleep early on the Eve will be granted a shorter lifespan, while those stay up throughout the night will be given a longer lifespan.

Danba County’s Spring Festival starts from 24th of lunar December when people begin dusting their houses, and ends on lunar January 15th.

Yi People’s Wonderful New Year in Jiulong County

Yi Calendar’s New Year is a traditional festival of the Yi People, who name this festival “kushi”.

“Kushi” kicks off in lunar October and in November. Villages where Yi People huddle together embark on selecting the auspicious day to start their New Year and end this festival on 30th of the month. Since different areas choose different auspicious days, some areas begin celebrating in the first 10 days of the month, some in the second 10 days of the month, and some in the rest days of the month. Each village celebrates the New Year for three days, and when all the Yi villages finish their celebrations, one month may have already passed.

Jiulong County welcomes the Yi calendar’s New Year which is reputed as the “festival of the mouth”, and this festival is commonly known as Yi People’s New Year. Each Yi family needs to spend three days to celebrate their New Year, with the first day named “kushi”, the second day “duobo”, and the third day “boji”.

The “kushi” day is mainly spent on sacrifice. During the day, people slaughter pigs, offer sacrifices, eat New Year’s dinner etc. And each ritual’s procedures have serious rules. The task of slaughtering New Year’s pigs is usually taken by young males. The most aged family or the family which has the highest seniority in the village begin slaughtering pigs first, and the “five indemnification (Eating, clothing, medical care, housing, and burial are all indemnified by the local government).” Households, window families and others of the similar kind will also enjoy the “seniority” treatment.

During the “duobo” day, people here usually drink from door to door, eat New Year’s meat, sing New Year’s songs... In some areas, people will hold horserace competitions, wrestling, bull fight, goat fight, fatty pork competitions, playing yueqin (one stringed musical instrument) and other cultural activities.

“Boji” means “seeing off ancestors”, which usually takes place at the moment of the rooster’s morning crow. Each family prepares thin buckwheat pies and fried tofu, place the boiled pig hearts, pig livers and other sacrificial food in the tray, turn the tray three times over the indoor bonfire, and then offer the food to their ancestors, hoping their ancestors eat the offered food on the “road (in hell)”.

Which traditional customs are there in Garze prefecture? Which special habits are still practiced during the New Year? Now let’s go over the Spring Festival traditions, customs, and special habits of the Tibetan area.

During the happy festival, let’s enjoy blessing together: Blessing paper culture

“Fu (Chinese character: 福)” means happiness or good luck. If the Chinese character is stuck somewhere upside down (Upside down’s Chinese character is 倒 (dao), which shares the same pronunciation with the Chinese character 到 (dao), meaning “come”), that means “Fu comes” or “Happiness dawns upon the family.” Sticking beautifully brushed and decorated “fu” paper on doors, windows or walls has long been a custom of the Chinese people, including those living in the Tibetan areas of Garze. Each year when the New Year comes, each and every family decorates their house with attractive New Year’s ornaments, hang red lanterns, and stick “fu” paper.

Unique dining culture: Zanba and Gutu

Tibetans usually eat Zanba and Gutu (one kind of flour porridge) when each of their festivals arrives, and there is no exception for their New Year.

The authentic Shuitao Zanba (Shuitao means the Tibetan barley used for making Zanba is cleaned in the water) is only produced in Sexidi town, Garze prefecture, for the Tibetan barley is really authentic for making Zanba after it is cleaned in the water and pan-fried, and then processed in the water mill and through other methods.

When eating Zanba, people will add some milk curds or sugar, according their own preference, and add Tibetan butter tea or common tea. Then, they will use their middle finger to stir the Zanba in a counter clockwise manner until the Zanba merges into the mixture at consistent rate and knead the Zanba mixture into balls. Afterwards, they will finally eat them. Some also mix Tibetan barley wine with Zanba, and this “ba” tastes sweat and tasty.

“Gutu” is a traditional food of the Tibetans. “Gu” refers to nine, and means 29 for this food’s name. “Tu” means Tuba, and is one kind of flour porridge. In Tibetan calendar’s lunar December 29th when the sun sets, every local family will hold a dough banquet, which is called Gutu. This is the traditional dinner of the New Year’s Eve.

The New Year comes, and the Tibetans are dressed in new shining clothes.

The New Year is around the corner, and Kham People are preparing their New Year’s clothes, ready to present themselves at important celebrations. The interesting question is: which clothes do Garze people wear during their celebrations?

Living in the west of Sichuan province, at the east edge of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, and in the Hengduan Mountains, Garze Tibetans have developed a series of unique regional Kham clothing, called Kham Clothing.

In Kham area, men’s clothes are always similar, while women’s clothes differ from each other regionally. It all looks nice and beautiful. People here prefer colorful clothes, and these colors include white, red, blue, pink, and orange.

Men usually wear short jackets with long round-collared robes over these jackets, and bind a long belt around their waist. The front hem is designed to be flat, but the back hem is designed with folds. Tibetan clothes are usually tailored with ornaments, such as pulu, leopard fur, otter fur and so on. A well-forged dagger and a fire chain (a lighter-like thing) are equipped on their waist. Each man wears an average hat or a fur hat from season to season. Their trousers or skirts are usually loose. They wear Tibetan boots or tall fur boots.

There are usually two kinds of clothes for women: one is similar to that of men’s but can stretch to the back of their feet; and the other is the long-sleeved blouse covered with a waistcoat, with a color belt on their waist and a nice-looking apron. The women here have many hairstyles, with some binding their hair with color threads, some making many small plaits behind their head, and some making a big hair bun on top of their head.

Women in the ranches love placing beads or jade ornaments on their small plaits, and amber beads on their forehead, and wearing a jade bracelet on their finger, and a coral or emerald necklace on their neck.

Kham Clothes can be divided into: Kham North Farmland Clothes, Kham South Farmland Clothes, Muya Clothes, Jiarong Clothes, Tequ Clothes etc.

Kham South Clothes

Danba Clothes

Dege Clothes

Muya Clothes

Kham North Farmland Clothes are mainly worn by people from the farming areas of Dege, Baiyu, Xinlong, Garze, Luhuo and other counties. Kham South Farmland Clothes are mainly worn by people from the farming areas of Batang, Yajiang, Xiangcheng, Derong and other counties. Muya Clothes are mainly worn by people from Daofu County, Yajiang County, the farming areas north of Zheduo Mountain in Kangding, and the farming areas of Jiulong County. People living in Danba and on the banks of Dadu River usually wear Jiarong Clothes. These clothes which are popular in Kanding City’s Yutong District, Yala Town, and Lanan Town of Luding County all have their own characteristics. Tequ Clothes are usually prevalent in Shiqu County, Seda County, and the ranches of all the counties of Garze.

Spend a happy and wonderful Spring Festival; give your blessings to others in the harmonious and peaceful living environment

On the morning of the first day of the year, women will go to the riverside or their well to fetch “auspicious water”, which symbolizes the auspiciousness and longevity of the entire family. Next, each family will place the symbolic offering “Suzhuqima” on a red table in their house. The “Suzhuqima” is a long shoe-shaped-ingot-like color basin, with one end filled with wheat and one end filled with cakes made of sugar, Tibetan butter, and Tibetan barley. A few colored wheat and barley ears are placed on these cakes. This means that they hope to have a good harvest and everything of their family to be flourishing. The happy people will sit in the room where the “Suzhuqima” is placed, toasting, offering khatas to each other, and singing and dancing to celebrate their New Year.

On the second day of the New Year, they begin to tell New Year’s greetings to each other from door to door. If a guest arrives, he must say, “Happy New Year” in Tibetan, and the owner of the house will hold a “Qiema (an auspicious box)” to welcome the guest. Next, they will sit down and enjoy the good beginning of the New Year.

On the third day, people will be dressed in their costumes and visit the largest Gelu Sect temple ---Qiangbalin Temple in Changdu to pray for peace and happiness. Therefore, once the day comes, Changdu Qiangbalin Temple will turn into a sacred place for appreciating the varied costumes of the locals.

On the fourth day, relatives and friends will begin visiting each other to send their New Year’s blessings. This will last for more than 10 days before the Tibetan New Year ends.

The Spring Festival is around the corner, and pure and sacred Garze welcomes you to come! In Garze, you will have a good experience of the Tibetan New Year; and in Garze, you will have a unique ethnic cultural New Years’ experience.

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