March Fair of Bai Ethnic Group
Also known as the Kwan-yin Fair, is one of the most important festivals. It is held annually at the foot of the Diancang Mountain in the west of Dali city. The fair lasts from the 15th to 20th in the third month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Of religious origin, it has become a commercial.
People of the Bai Ethnic Group enjoy boisterousness, and they hold a large variety of festivals during a year. Among these, March Fair of Bai Ethnic Group is one of the most famous and festive one. March Fair of Bai Ethnic Group is both a well-known grand meeting for interflow of commodities of Yunnan Province and a traditional great festival of Bai ethnic minorities. It’s held from March 15th to 21st of the lunar calendar annually at the foot of Mount Zhonghe of Mount Diancang in the west of Dali City. The March Fair used to be a Buddhist ceremony. As Dali has been the center for interflow of commodities in south Yunnan, the March Fair has developed to be a grand meeting for interflow of commodities and mass recreational activities. In the year 1991, the fair was reputed as March Fair of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture.
March Fair of Bai Minority
The March Fair is the largest gathering place of commodity transaction in western Yunnan Province. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, businessmen of Sichuan, Tibet and many other provinces would go to Dali to participate in this March Fair. During the March Fair, businessmen and common people from far and near flock there to participate in the festival. There are huge crowds of people everywhere, and a wide variety of products including everything that one can expect to find, such as medicinal materials, food, furniture and livestock. According to traditional customs, people trade with others in the daytime and enjoy singing and dancing in the evening, which is boisterous and exciting.
After years of development, the March Fair has become an annual flourishing grand meeting for exchange of goods and materials as well as a recreational celebration, which plays an important part in strengthening national unity and promoting economic and cultural exchanges between ethnic minorities. People of various ethnic minorities, such as Han, Yi, Nakhi, Zang, Lisu and Hui, are in splendid attire and gather together at the foot of Mount Zhonghe. There are more abundant activities, including singing in antiphonal style, dancing, shooting, horse racing and all kinds of sports balls competitions. Besides, the opera of the Bai minority and Huadeng opera are performed.
The March Fair is also named Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) Fair. According to legend, in the Kingdom of Nanzhao, Goddess of Mercy would give a sermon on March 15th of the lunar calendar. Thus, at this period, local devotees to the Buddha would put up a shed and chant sutras, worshipping the Goddess of Mercy. At that time, March street became a temple fair for giving sermon and worshipping. As Dali enjoyed convenient transportation and there were a large number of devotees to the Buddha in ancient Yunnan, the temple fair gradually become a fair for trade and gathering in south Yunnan.
According to legend, there used to be a tyrant who expected physical immortality. One of his attendants told him that he could live forever if he ate eyeballs of two persons each day. The tyrant followed took the attendant at his word, which brought a serious disaster to local people of the Bai ethnic minority. In order to help local people to get rid of the disaster, a brave and young man with miraculous power tried to ask the tyrant to go to the foot of Mount Zhonghe of Mount Cang by cheat. Then the brave young man let a divine dog to bite off the tyrant’s throat and suck his blood to death. In memory of this brave man and in celebration of the special day, people of the Bai ethnic minority would gather together at the foot of Mount Zhonghe from March 15 to 21st of the lunar calendar, singing and dancing. Year after year, the March Fair is formed.