The Yi Torch Festival

Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum

The Yi Torch Festival

by Live in Guizhou


Image Source: Eyesnews

The Yi Torch Festival, celebrated by the Yi ethnic group and other minorities in southwestern China, is a vibrant and culturally significant event. Here’s a summary in four parts:

The Torch Festival usually occurs from the 24th to the 26th day of the sixth lunar month, corresponding to mid-August in the Gregorian calendar. It’s a time of great importance for the Yi, akin to the Spring Festival for the Han people. The festival involves the participation of men, women, young, and old, who carry flaming torches and engage in various activities over the course of three days.

During the festival, torches are set up in front of each household, and a large pile of faggots is erected in the village center, which is ignited amid the sounds of gongs and horns, creating a joyous atmosphere. Additionally, men and women participate in dances and music, playing traditional three-stringed instruments, kicking, and clapping in rhythm. The festival also serves as an opportunity for young people to meet potential spouses.

Among the Yi, young women wear special headdresses to attract the attention of young men, but the men are not allowed to touch these ornaments. The festival includes a practice where a young man may ‘steal’ the embroidered belt of a woman he is interested in; if she reciprocates his feelings, she allows him to court her. These practices are rooted in ancient Yi customs and symbolize marital intentions and happiness.