怒族仙女節 Fairy Festival of the Nu Nationality
Inscribed list: National List, First Batch
Inventory no.: X-24
Nominating unit(s): Yunnan Province, Gongshan Dulong and Nu Autonomous County
The Nu nationality (怒族) annually celebrate the Fairy Festival, also known as the “Flower festival” on the fifteenth day of the Third Lunar month. The festival lasts for three days.
There are various explanations of the origins of the Fairy Festival. It might have started as a form of worship for their original deities, or as customs respecting the matriarchal nature of its society. The most popular explanation of its origins is rooted in the legend of Ah Rong (阿茸), an industrious young maiden who invented the zipline for crossing the Nujiang river (怒江), as well as splitting Gongshan (貢山) mountain, in order to channel freshwater to irrigate the fields. She captured the attention of Tou Ren (頭人), who desired to marry her. She refused, and fled to the caves. In his rage, Tou Ren set fire to the caves, killing Ah Rong. It is also said that Ah Rong turned into a stone statue inside the caves. The Nu people commemorate her during the Fairy Festival.
During the festival, people will don their traditional clothes, and carry azalea flowers and other types of oblations to the caves where the statue of Ah Rong is located. There is an influence of Tibetan Buddhism on the Nu people, and thus there are thangkas and colorful Buddhist prayer flags placed at the worship sites too. The altars are made on the natural rocks inside the cave, with incense offerings, and decorated with flowers, pine branches, and bamboo sticks tied with corn. The flowers are for Ah Rong, while pine branches and corn symbolize everlasting luck and harvest respectively. At the altar, religious officials will chant prayers as worshippers bow. Meanwhile, musicians play traditional instruments at the scene. People will circle around the altar as the musicians beat the drums, and offer and place flowers.
Legend has it that the stalactites in the caves release sacred water. Water dripping from the stalactites will be collected and shared to the participants. After the main rituals, people partake of food and win with their family members in a picnic, and there will be music and dance performances. Young villagers will also participate in an archery competition. Later at night, they will sing and dance around the bonfire, while searching for their potential love.
As time goes on, the focus on deity worshipping at the festival has been shifted to music and sports. The Fairy Festival is an illustration of the syncretic nature of the Nu’s people religion, who worship nature, but are also adherents of Tibetan Buddhism.
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