Many ethnic groups in Yunnan celebrate the Torch Festival, such as the Yi, Bai, Naxi, Hani, Lisu, Lahu and Pumi nationalities. However, the Yi Torch Festival is the most well-known and the biggest in scale. The Torch Festival is the most important festival for the Yi people.
In ancient times, the Torch Festival was called “Xinghui (returning of the stars) Festival”, which has a great variety in its origin. To the Yi people, their torches are intended to kill pests and ensure the harvest. To Sani, a sub-group of the Yi, they observe the Torch Festival in honor of a Sani hero who killed an evil demon.
The Torch Festival is held on the 24th and 25th of the lunar June (approximately July 8th-9th), when the Yi would put on their holiday best to the main festival site with their Yueqin (moon-shaped four-stringed plucked instrument), three-stringed guitar and Lusheng. Usually, people watch wrestling and bull fighting performances in the day time. The Yi in Wuding County and Luquan County enjoy more activities such as archery, horse-racing, swinging and so on. When it grows dark, everyone lights their previously-prepared torch, 2-meter in length and 20-30 centimeter in diameter. People gather at the entrance to or the playground of the village before they run through forests and their field, expressing their wishes to drive away insects and evils, and to pray for a bumper harvest.
What's more, the Yi has a custom of putting their torches together to make a bonfire. Their bonfire party usually lasts till the next morning. Young Yi men were blowing flutes, plucking moon-shaped instruments and three-stringed guitars while young women were dancing to the rhythm, clapping their hands.
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