Ancient China Festivals

Ancient Chinese had many festivals. Some of them were local, others were regional, and the largest ones were national. Local festivals were related to celebrations of famous people and families. Regional festivals celebrated the Tudi Gong.

Spring Festival in Chinese

The most important festival in the whole of China was New Year’s Day. There were also festivals that had the purpose of cleaning a town or village of evil spirits and those that served to invite the blessings of the ancestors.

New Year’s Day

  • The celebration of New Year has not changed a lot since ancient times. Even then, the people would announce the beginning of the New Year by setting off firecrackers made of bamboo.
  • An important element of this celebration was preparing, sacrificing, and consuming a lot of pork, chicken, and sheep meat.  The meaning of this practice was to ensure the fertility of the land for the year that is coming. For the same purpose, people hung up sheep and chicken skins outside their homes, burned incense, and drank large amounts of special ale.

Chinese New Year

The Lantern Festival

  • This was another important national festival, and it was (and still is) a part of the New Year’s celebration. It was honoring the light of the full moon, and it was held on the 15th day of the first month in a year. People would hold feasts, dance, and pay games near ponds, streams, and lakes, where they would previously float large lighted lanterns.
  • The rich could afford grander lamps, and they did. The largest ones typically belonged to the emperor. Everyone spent all the money and resource they could so that they would ensure prosperity for the whole year.

lantern festival

Other large festivals in ancient China

There was a number of national festivals celebrated throughout China. We’ll mention a few.

  • The Lustration Festival was all about driving evil spirits away, which was accomplished by overeating and drinking lots of ale. This celebration happened on the third day of the third moon.
  • The Qingming Festival was about honoring the ancestors, and it was held in April.
  • The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon Festival, also known as the Dragon Boat Festival, had the purpose of honoring upright statesmen who rejected a life of dishonor and chose a dignified death instead.
  • The Hungry Ghosts Festival honored everyone who passed on. It was held in August.
  • The Seventh Night of the Seventh Moon Festival paid tribute to the ancient Chinese deities of love.
  • The Mid-Autumn Festival honored the moon.
  • The Last Day of the Twelfth Moon Festival was (and it still is) the Chinese New Year ’s Eve.  It was celebrated by having feasts, drinking ale, and making firework parties.

Almost all of these festivals are still regularly held in modern China. They link people with their past and their cultural values, but the meaning was a lot more important in the lives of ancient Chinese.

Q&A

What kinds of festivals were there in Ancient China?

There were local, regional, and national festivals.

What did regional festivals celebrate?

Those festivals celebrated Tudi Gong?

What was the most important festival in ancient China?

It was New Year’s Day.

Which festival was held by floating large lighted lanterns?

It was the Lantern Festival.

What was the other name for The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon Festival?

It was the Dragon Boat Festival.