There is a lot that China offers from job opportunities to cultural festivals. When not on an internship or job, though, you should take the time to appreciate the culture of China. One of the best ways to do this is to celebrate some of the many beautiful festivals the country has to offer.
1. Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival began in 1963. It did get put on pause for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution but resumed in January of 1985. What started as a local festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang, China gained momentum over the years and is now the largest international ice sculpture festival, even surpassing those in Norway and Quebec.
Today, the festival can see as many as 10 to 15 million visitors each year. Visitors can explore the sculptures over the entire city but most are set up in Sun Island as well as Ice and Snow World. If you want to see some of the creations of the artists in this festival, you can look here.
2. Yunnan Water Festival
The Yunnan Water Festival goes by many names including Water Splashing Festival and the Dai New Year. The Dai New Year actually started in India as part of Brahmanism. However, when it was adopted into Buddhism between the late 13th and early 14th century it spread to China.
The general tradition of this festival is to bathe Buddha and then splash water on yourself and others for good luck. As the festival has grown in popularity, though, the festivities have grown as well. Rather than just focusing on water now, the festival includes artistic performances, folk activities, trade fairs, and more.
3. Seven Sisters Festival
The Seven Sisters Festival occurs – as the name may suggest – on the seventh day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar. In 2018 and 2019, this date falls on the first half of August in the Western calendar. If you haven’t heard of the Seven Sisters Festival, you might recognize it under its informal name: Chinese Valentine’s Day.
This festival showcases artistic competitions such as needlework as well as women making offerings to Altair and Vega – star crossed lovers separated by the Milky Way that the holiday celebrates. The festival is held in part to empower and bring together women of different backgrounds.
4. China Shanghai International Arts Festival
The China Shanghai International Arts Festival (CSIAF) is rather modern by comparison to some of the other festivals on our list as it was established in 1999. The program displays visual and performing arts from not only China but from international sources as well. In 2016 alone, CSIAF worked with the Sydney Opera House, the Kennedy Center, the European Festivals Association as well as many Chinese companies such as the Shanghai Grand Theatre and the Beijing Tianqiao Performing Arts Center.
5. Lantern Festival
The Chinese Lantern Festival is typically celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month. It marks the end of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival, which we will discuss in detail later on. In 2018, this lunar date fell on the Western calendar in the beginning of March.
This Lantern Festival dates back to ancient times and the lanterns have gotten more ornate as time has gone on. It used to be that noblemen and emperors had ornate lanterns but today you can see a variety of types of lanterns lining the streets. In addition to enjoying lanterns and solving lantern riddles, you can view dragon dances, lion dances, and eating tangyuan.
6. Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Duanwu and Tuen Ng Festival. It has been celebrated in China for over 2000 years. It is celebrated to remember Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was an ancient Chinese poet who lived from 340 to 278 BC. The celebration is especially popular in southern areas such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Fujian provinces.
The Dragon Boat Festival is held on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month – which usually falls in May or June on the Western calendar. Traditions at the festival center around dragon boat races but also include enjoying Zongzi.
7. Cheung Chau Bun Festival
On the 5th to the 9th days of the fourth lunar month, the Cheung Chau Bun Festival is held in Cheung Chau. Cheung Chau is an island southwest of Hong Kong and this local festival brings in plenty of tourists each year.
Festivities include costumes, bamboo towers, eating buns, and papier-mache effigies to deities. The festival started with a plague that ripped through Cheung Chau under the Qing dynasty. To stop the plague, islanders built an altar to the god Pak Tai to stop the plague and drive off evil spirits. It worked and the festival continues to this day.
8. Mid-Autumn Festival
When following the Chinese lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month. This usually aligns with September or October on the Western calendar. Some consider this festival to be one the grandest festivals in China, second only to the Chinese New Year.
To celebrate this holiday, most in China get the day off. The focus is to spend time with family and offer sacrifice to the moon. In addition to eating moon cakes and celebrating family and friends, many also celebrate with lanterns, lion dances, and dragon dances.
9. Guangzhou Flower Fair
The Guangzhou Flower Fair is celebrated in Guangzhou around three days before the Spring Festival starts. The origin of this festival reaches back to ancient times and the people of Guangdong and Hong Kong even have a saying that “No flower fairs, no Spring Festival”.
The city is covered in flowers for the affair and each one holds a different meaning. For example, kumquat plants symbolize a financially prosperous year.
10. Chengdu International Peach Blossom Festival
Held in the Longquanyi District, the Chengdu International Peach Blossom Festival is an annual event that draws tourists in. It is held around mid-March and can last up to 15 to 20 days. The festival includes seeing the peach blossoms, trying fresh peaches, and enjoying the many stands set up throughout the festival.
11. Chongyang Festival
The Chongyang Festival is also known as the Double Ninth Festival and it is held on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month. The name Chongyang comes from the fact that ‘chong’ means double and 9 is the number of Yang.
When this festival is occurring, it is custom to enjoy Chongyang cake and chrysanthemum wine. In addition, many who celebrate the holiday also climb mountains to appreciate and admire chrysanthemum blossoms.
12. Chinese New Year
As expected from this list, we have the Chinese New Year. The exact date of this celebration changes from year to year but it always generally falls between January 21 and February 20. The celebration usually lasts 16 days, sandwiched between the Lantern Festival and the Spring Festival. Each new year is associated with an animal – for example, 2018 is the year of the Dog.
One major facet of Chinese New Year is to decorate homes and cities in red for good luck. For example, you will see red lanterns in the street and red couplets on doors. Celebrations include eating lucky food such as dumplings and firecracker shows.
13. Winter Solstice Festival
The Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) was the first dynasty to celebrate the Winter Solstice Festival. Ever since the Han Dynasty and continuing through the Tang and Song Dynasties, the Winter Solstice has been seen as important as the Spring Festival with a day off and officially organized celebrations.
14. Xian International Culture and Art Festival
Starting in 1990, the Xian International Culture and Art Festival is held yearly in September. It is a cultural tourism festival that shows off artistic performances both local and international. The festivities include opera, fireworks, puppet shows, shadow plays, and much more.
15. Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival
The Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival is a festival held in north China yearly. One of the festivities is to go to Songhua River Ski Resort to enjoy skiing, driving snowmobiles, and sledding. You can also go to Songhua Lake and ride a horse-drawn sleigh. You can also view thousands of lanterns floating in the Songhua River.