Every year the Bai people of Shaxi hold their Taizhi Festival. Taizhi is the local name for the Buddha Sakyamuni. The festival recreates the time when he, born as a prince into a royal family in northern India, leaves home on his journey to enlightenment.
The four gates to the village are decorated .
The performers start to assemble in the courtyard of the small temple outside the walls. A meal is prepared for them and the older members of the community. Groups sit around smoking and chatting, adjusting costumes, cracking jokes and reliving past parades. The percussion band of bells and cymbals and tams celebrate within the temple and then come outside to kneel as they play and chant. Incense sticks and smouldering pine branches and cigarettes lick across the courtyard in swathes of blue smoke, combining with the smell of steaming soup and noodles to create a swirling current of smells and sounds.
As the morning progresses the final adjustments are made. The members of the parade mix freely with their older friends. Cackling women laugh and giggle and playfully nudge each other. Men share cigarettes and tea and crack jokes at their pals in the parade. Spectators, mostly locals, start to gather around the square and to line the streets, iPhones & big lenses at the ready.
An explosion of fire crackers signals the start of the parade and throughout the procession gives advance earning as it progresses around the village and through each of the four gates, led by the Shaxi version of the Horns of Plenty. Where all these people come from I do not know but it’s a wonderful occasion full of colour and noise and community.
Why is it that folk in the poorest areas of the world really know how to party? Yunnan is the poorest and most ethnically diverse area of China. The vast majority of people here earn less than $150 a year. Yet smiles and laughter and pride are the order of the day.