Building a Deeper Sense of Community in Nadun Festival
When it happens: July 12 to September 15
Where it happens: China
History: Nadun is an annual festival that reflects the shared origins of the northern nomadic people. For the Xianbei, it is celebrated as a gathering for leisure and fun in the spring. The Mongols, on the other hand, commemorate this festival to preserve the features of archery, wrestling, and horse race. The Mongour Nadun set their history through masked dance performances and military drills that are combined with the blissful festival of harvest.
About the Festival: Nadun is a festival celebrated by the Tu Zu in China and the Mongour in the West. It resembles the Nadam festival of the Mongols but is different in content and format. It is held in the Guanting/Sanchuan area in Minhe County at the easternmost part of Qinghai. It is a two month celebration that takes place from the 12th day of July to the 15th day of September. Thus, it is known as the longest festival in the world. The festival is tied to agricultural work with a purpose of that as the Thanksgiving of the West. It expresses the appreciation of the people for the profusion of harvest.
The festival is mainly consists of drama and dance performances. The starting program of the festival is the Huishou dance where a mass of people dance. The participants are from the young to the old. They dance in tune of the rhythms of the gongs and drums as they sway their body and circle around. It has three stages. The first stage is the Tomb-sweeping day, characterized by offering of sacrifices to God Erlang and maintaining social order in the community. The second stage is characterized by small meetings which are followed by a series of activities. The last stage is the formal day of the festival. On that day, the villages make a special kind of sacrificial cake called Supan. They also make fry dough cakes, and they bring live chickens and sheep to the divine tent where they pray and present their cooked food. You can also find hexagonal hangings of grain and token money as a symbol of gratitude to the gods. Lastly, they dance the Fala as an invitation to the gods to be merry with them and the Supan are distributed to the villages to symbolize the connection between god and man.
Travel Tips: The climate in July and August is mild and relaxing. You can bring light clothing and wear sandals for optimum comfort. Although China is a relatively safe country, you should still be careful of snatchers and pickpockets.
Nadun has always been a part of the Tu culture. Their nomadic animal husbandry is perfectly represented by their traditional dance. However, agricultural developments have slightly shifted their nomadic life to a settlement. This embarked farming and other dances that corresponds to their new way of life. If you ever visit the Minhe County, be sure to experience this festival. It is a great time for you to give thanks for the blessings you have received.