Folk Customs of Sichuan

Due to Sichuan’s geographic location and historic position as “a strategic area”, people there have a trait that combines the roughness of the northern Chinese and the gentleness of the southern Chinese. Because of the humid climate in the Sichuan Basin and the long quiet seasons of farming, Sichuan people like eating hot spicy food, spending long idle hours in teahouses, enjoying Sichuan Opera or playing mahjong.

A teahouse in Chengdu

Sichuan Opera, more like a play than other forms of Chinese opera, is noted for its high-pitched tunes, accompanied only by percussion instruments and choruses, without wind or stringed instruments. Sichuan Opera features vivid and humorous narration, singing, dancing and acrobatics, and its acting is exquisite and lively. Sichuan Opera performances are always full of wit, humor, lively dialogues, and pronounced local flavors. The stunning stunts, such as the famous face-changing, sword-hiding and fire-spitting, make Sichuan Opera more attractive and interesting.

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Mahjong, a game that originated in China, is commonly played by four players with a set of 144 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols. Similar to the Western card game rummy, mahjong is a game of skill, strategy and calculation, and involves a certain degree of chance.

Mahjong

Sichuan is home to China’s second largest population of Tibetan people after Tibet itself, and is also the largest region inhabited by Yi people. It is also the only region in the country where Qiang people live in homogenous groups. The Tibetan, Yi, Qiang, Mosuo and other ethnic groups have established the uniqueness in every aspect of their lives, from clothing, food and housing, to weddings, funerals, festive celebrations and etiquette.

Tibetans are mainly engaged in farming and herding. Both men and women wear robes, and women usually put on colorful waistbands and all kinds of jewelry. Whenever there are important functions or special visitors, the Tibetans will present guests with Hada (white satin scarf), buttered tea and qingke wine. Major Tibetan festivals include Tibetan New Year, and the Horse Racing Festival. Sky burial, or jhator, is the most common form of burials and involves the cutting up of the body to be fed to birds of prey from atop mountains.

Jiaju Tibetan Village in Danba County, Sichuan

Yi people virtually jumped into modern society from a primitive slave society after the founding of New China. Men’s outfits are called “chaerwa”, and women wear the “baizhe” (hundred-pleat) skirt. Following a death, a pig or sheep is sacrificed on the house threshold to help maintain a strong bond with the deceased. The Yi people hold an annual Torch Festival, which draws lots of tourists.

Torch Festival of the Yi People

Qiang minority is one of the oldest ethnic groups in China. Communities are generally comprised of 30-100 households, forming “fortress villages”. Qiang people wear blue cotton dresses, drink “zha” wine, dance the “shalang” and worship the god of cloud stone. Their stone structures, bamboo rope bridges and water control technology are very unique. The Qiang people abide by strict taboos with regards to birth and death. Strangers are not allowed in the house for 3-7 days following the birth of a baby, and a flail or bamboo basket for boys and girls respectively is hung on the gatepost as a signal. To name the newly-born baby is an important event for Qiang people, and normally a grand baby’s naming ceremony will be held when the baby is one month old.

Traditional Costume of the Qiang People

The Mosuo people, living around Lugu Lake at the border of Sichuan and Yunan, still retain the “Azhu Marriage” system. “Azhu” is what a Mosuo woman calls her lover or vice versa. The man usually visits his lover, stays in her room at night and goes back to his own house early next morning. The local people call this “Azhu Marriage”, which is also called “Axia Marriage” or “Walking Marriage”.

Lugu Lake

Festive activities are held in Sichuan all year round, from the Zigong, Chengdu and Deyang Lantern Festivals, to the Longquan Peach Flower Festival, Tianpeng Peony Festival, Dujiangyan Water-Releasing Festival, Emei Mountain Pilgrimage Fair and Guangyuan Girls’ Festival.

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