Watering Flowers Festival (Jiaohuajie) of Deang Ethnic Minority

Chinese Name:德昂族浇花节/泼水节
English Name:  Watering Flowers Festival (Jiaohuajie) of Deang Ethnic Minority

Watering Flowers Festival (Jiaohuajie) of the Deang Ethnic Minority

The Deang people celebrate the Watering Flowers Festival, also known as Jiaohuajie, typically in mid-April. This festival, lasting 3 to 5 days, is rich with cultural and religious significance, combining elements of nature worship, Buddhist rituals, and community activities.

The Legend Behind the Festival

The Misunderstanding of Filial Piety: One legend tells of a rebellious son who, on the seventh day after Qingming Festival, was working in the mountains and witnessed a scene of young birds feeding their mother. This moved him to resolve to serve his mother better. As his mother climbed the mountain to bring him food, she slipped, and fearing her son would strike her, she tragically killed herself by hitting a tree. The remorseful son carved a statue of his mother from the tree and, every year on the seventh day after Qingming, he would bathe the statue in warm water sprinkled with flower petals, which evolved into a local custom.

The Longing for the Seven Fairies: In ancient times, seven fairies descended from heaven to bathe in a lake but were spotted by the Deang people and flew back to heaven. The fairies told the Deang that if they missed them, they could create Buddha statues and bathe them annually to remember them.

Remembering Buddha Shakyamuni: Buddha Shakyamuni, concerned about the long drought, advised the Deang people to pour water on his statue during the “Sand Pagoda Festival” every year. This act would bring rain to relieve the drought. Before he ascended to heaven, Shakyamuni left scriptures and instructed the Deang to perform this ritual, promising it would ensure their peace and prosperity.

Festival Activities

Day 1: Listening to Scriptures: On the first day of the festival, villagers gather at the temple to listen to the monks recite scriptures.

Day 2: Bathing the Buddha: The second day involves bathing the Buddha statues. Each household’s younger generation prepares a basin of hot water and, in the main hall, they ask for forgiveness from their elders for any disrespect shown over the past year. The elders also reflect on their own shortcomings in setting examples. The younger ones then wash the hands and feet of their elders, mutually wishing for harmony and good fortune in the coming year. Only in the afternoon do the water-splashing activities begin.

Day 3: Festive Water Splashes: On the third day, the water-splashing festivities continue. The temporary “temple hall” constructed in the village becomes the focal point, adorned with wild pear blossoms collected by the youth. Villagers carry water from a sacred pond back to the hall to bathe the Buddha statues.

Collecting and Splashing Water: Participants, including young men and women, gather around a small pond to fetch water. Women often hand decorated bamboo water tubes to the young men, expressing love and affection under the ancient banyan tree. This act symbolizes gratitude for the life-giving water and the sharing of heartfelt emotions.Deang Ethnic Minority

Rituals and Ceremonies

Constructing the “Zang House”: On the day before the festival, villagers build a temporary structure called the “Zang House” in the village center. Two dragon-shaped wooden water troughs, one approximately 10 meters long and the other about 6 meters long, are set up. Water from these troughs, decorated with wildflowers, flows over the Buddha statues, bathing them.

Receiving and Bathing the Buddha: During the festival, villagers, led by elders, fetch several small gilded Buddha statues from the main temple. These statues are placed in the Zang House where water flows over them. The village’s sole monk pours the first jug of water into the dragon trough, followed by the elders and then the villagers, marking the climax of the festival.

Mutual Blessings: On the final day, villagers from neighboring Deang communities visit each other, exchanging blessings and participating in the water-splashing activities. This ritual, accompanied by drum music and dancing, symbolizes the purification of the body and soul, and the mutual exchange of good wishes for health and prosperity.

The Watering Flowers Festival blends Buddhist devotion with vibrant cultural traditions, celebrating the Deang people’s reverence for nature, their community bonds, and their aspirations for a harmonious and prosperous life.

Source from: