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Chinese villagers don robes, make-up and wield swords to celebrate pagan festival

Villagers in north China are celebrating the pagan She Huo festival for the gods of land and fire with troupes singing, beating drums, dancing, and performing traditional drama and martial arts.

art and culture Updated: Mar 03, 2018 14:32 IST
Agence France-Presse
She Huo festival,China,Culture
Villagers dressed in traditional costumes as they parade during the She Huo festival.(AFP)

Villagers in northern China wake up before dawn to paint their faces with pinkish make-up, don colourful robes and wield swords to represent legendary figures for a unique festival capping Chinese New Year celebrations. Art troupes gather at a plaza in Longxian county, Shaanxi province, to sing, beat drums, dance, and perform traditional Chinese drama and martial arts during the pagan She Huo celebration for the gods of land and fire.

They then hold a lively parade, some wearing long fake beards, others riding real horses or fake decorative stallions around their waist as onlookers follow them. For this important regional tradition, performers get up as early as 4am to paint their faces and prepare stage props like swords and spears.

China marked its New Year on February 16 to enter the Year of the Dog, but celebrations last for days and include regional traditions. The She Huo festival dates back to ancient China, when people performed to pray to their gods for a bumper harvest and good weather. Now it is listed as an intangible cultural heritage in China, where local governments are making efforts to make more people participate and enjoy the activity.

Government workers typically walk in front of the parade, leading it to new construction sites and shops as the art troupes perform blessing rituals. But concerned villagers still worry about the fading of the tradition, saying the festival is getting shorter every year and the schedule is becoming increasingly unpredictable. “It’s not as lively as it used to be when I was young,” said Chen Liping, a She Huo performer in her 40s. “I hope it can be as boisterous forever, so we can have new performances every year.”

Here are some more photos of the festival:

The festival being celebrated in the courtyard of an official state building in Longxian, Shaanxi province. (AFP)
Villagers in northern China wake up before dawn to paint their faces with pinkish make-up, don colourful robes and wield swords. (AFP)
Villagers represent legendary figures for the She Huo festival. (AFP)
The She Huo festival is a unique event capping Chinese New Year celebrations. (AFP)

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First Published: Mar 03, 2018 14:29 IST