Xishuangbanna, Yunnan - What is the description of a Water-Splashing Festival with little water?
For 18-year-old Yu Jianfeng, it means she will this year use a branch dipped in water to sprinkle on people, as has been done for generations and is believed by her Dai ethnic people to bring happiness and good luck.
"I splashed at least 10 big buckets of water last year, but this time I will be very frugal as we are suffering from a severe drought," said Yu, who lives in the Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture of Yunnan province.
The three-day Water-Splashing Festival, which reaches its climax on Thursday, has in recent years been typically celebrated in a carnival-like atmosphere to welcome the New Year on the Dai calendar by people like Yu, and several other ethnic groups in Yunnan province.
However, the region, usually awash with water, is this year reeling under the effects of the worst drought in a century.
As of last week, more than 25 million people and about 18 million livestock were short of water, and some 8 million hectares of arable land was lying fallow in the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
In hardest-hit Yunnan, the drought has forced many villagers to sell their cattle for low prices and abandon their cropland. Over 80 percent of the area producing fresh flowers, rapeseed, sugarcane, tobacco and tea has been affected.
The local government's decision to go ahead with water sprinkling to celebrate a traditional festival had sparked controversy last month.
Yu, however, said she supports the decision as she believes the traditional ritual - also observed in parts of Southeast Asia - is a way to "pray for adequate rainfall in the next year".
On Tuesday, 12 dragon boats were racing in the Xishuangbanna section of the Lancang River, where the water level had dipped remarkably. In some parts, rocks and pebbles were visible on the river bed, where many local residents took off their shoes and sprinkled water on each other.
Duan Jinhua, a senior official in the information office of Xishuangbanna, said the government had decided to shorten the time for water splashing from a whole day to two hours (noon to 2 pm) on Thursday.
Residents and tourists are encouraged to gather in major playgrounds, and use water sparingly.
Each year, almost all the 1 million residents of Xishuangbanna enthusiastically participate in the festival along with about 200,000 to 300,000 tourists.
Duan estimated that the same number of tourists may flock to Xishuangbanna this year.
In the Dehong Dai and Jingpo autonomous prefecture, the local government has decided to cancel official celebrations for the festival this year and left the residents and tourists to their own devices.
The traditional festival was listed on the State intangible heritage list in 2006
(China Daily 04/14/2010 page1)