More Chinese festivals: Jing zhe驚蟄 /Shangsi jie上巳 節

We’ve just celebrated 2 rather high profile Chinese holidays: New Years and the Lantern Festival.  Most people know something about these holidays.  They are fun, colorful, and celebrated by Chinese and non-Chinese around the world.  This picture was taken at the St Louis Missouri Botanical Gardens in 2013.

Lantern Festival at MO Botanical Gardens 2013 Jing Zhe Insects Awaken March festival

(my photo)

But there are many other less known festival days that are tied to traditional Chinese culture.  Some of these are tied to China’s solar calendar, some the lunar calendar, and some have become intermixed.  One such holiday may be 驚蟄 Jing zhe, Insects Awaken. Jing Zhe Insects Awaken March festivalThe holiday comes in the 3rd month (note  People’s Daily Online).  I believe this festival is also called the Shangsi Festival [上巳 節 shàngsì jié, shanghsih jier], which today officially lands on the 3rd day of the 3rd month of the lunar calendar*. Traditionally this began the farming season in most of China.

It is said that the thunder of spring rains awaken the insects who have been hibernating all winter.  There are a range of activities to mark this day, such as a sacrificial ceremony held near water where people could clean themselves and rid themselves not only of dirt but also of last year’s bad luck. Driving out evil and bad luck is a critical part of this festival. Wormwood was hung in homes to drive out insects, rats and snakes.

Celebrants also called back the spirits of relatives and awaken their own spirits. And, as often happens, people would go outside and enjoy picnics and hikes.  After all, winter was over, the spring rains had started and there was new life everywhere.

Another custom the People’s Daily mentioned was that in some areas the white tiger was honored.  This was done to avoid disputes during the coming year. If someone angered or displeased the tiger, that person would have conflicts with others during the year. I especially like this story because it exemplified how important maintaining peaceful coexistence with your neighbors and family was.

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