Qiang New Year festival is the traditional festival of the Qiang ethnic minority in Sichuan Province. It is on the first day of the tenth month of the traditional Chinese calendar. During the festival, Qiang people pray to the seities for harvest and prosperity, show their respect to nature, and thus enhance social and familial harmony. Under the guidance of Shibi (the sacred father), villagers wear their festival costumes, hold stately sacrifice ceremonies to the deities and the mountains. Then, villagers dance leather drum dances and Salang dances with Shibi taking the lead. During the ceremony, Shibi chants the traditional epic poetries of the Qiang ethnic minority, while people sing songs, drink wine and enjoy the ceremony. On New Year’s Eve, the master of every family will host the sacrifice ceremony and make sacificial offerings. Through the celebration of the New Year, the tradition, hisotry and culture of the Qiang ethnic minority is passed on, the habits of the people get strengthened, and the Qiang people’s respect and veneration to all living things, to Motherland and to ancestors is expressed. In Maoxian County (in the north of Chengdu) and its surrounding areas, there is a special regulation about celebrating the Qiang New Year Festival, which is, only when there is no adults die during that year can they celebrate the Qiang New Year Festival, otherwide only the Spring Festival is celebrated. Niuwanghui Festival (Ox King Festival) is another traditional festival of the Qiang ethnic minority. It lasts one day, and during this day, people will let the farm cattle have a rest and feed them with steamed bread and wheat grass. In some places, people will make breads shaped like the sun and the moon to hang on the ox horn and let them out of the lair to play by themselves. The master of the family will go to the Niuwangmiao (Ox King Temple) to burn joss sticks and charm paper. They will also kill a sheep and a chicken as the sacrificial offering, praying to the Ox Kong that their farm cattle be safe from plague.
However, in recent years, fewer and fewer people are celebrating the New Year of the Qiang calendar, due to the increasing migration of people, young people’s decreasing interest in the Qiang traditional culture, and the influence of outside cultures. In 2008, the Wenchuan Earthquake destroyed many Qiang villages, making huge damage to the communities of the Qiang people, and so to the New Year of the Qiang calendar.
Qiang New Year Festival was listed as one of the first batch of intangible cultual heritage by Sichuan Provincial Government in 2006. In June 2008, Qiang New Year Festival was listed into the second batch of national intangible cultural heritage.
The celebration of Qiang New Year Festival is mainly distributed in Sichuan Province, such as Beichuan Qiang Ethnic Autonomous County and Maoxian County, Songpan County, Wenchuan County, Lixian County in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Ethnic Autonomous Prefecture, and some other Qiang communities. Beichuan is located in the northwest of Sichuan Basin under the administration of Mianyang City, Sichuan Province, and is the only Qiang Ethnic Autonomous County in the whole China. During the long historical development, the Qiang people in Beichuan have lived in a relatively isolated environment, thus forming their own very unique traditional culture. Their festivals ans celebrations vividly reflect the features of their cultures. Among them, Qiang New Year Festival is the grandest one.
Origin of Qiang New Year Festival
Qiang New Year has a very long historical origin. According the “Mujiezhu”, the scriptures of the primitive religions of the Qiang people, Mujiezhu, youngest daughter of the God Mubita, insistently wanted to descend to the secular world and marry Dou’anzhu, a Qiang young man. Before she descended, her parents gave her plenty of seeds of trees, grains and livestock as dowry. After Mujiezhu came down to the secular world, she proliferated offsprings, and the seeds she brought down grew into forests, grains into harvests and livestock into herds. Keeping in mind her parents’ bounty, Mujiezhu would put the harvested food and well-fed livestock on the open fields every year after autumn harvest, and offer birthday congratulations to the heaven above. From then on, Qiang New Year festival became the day when Qiang people celebrate harvests and thank their god.