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Five Magic Things Happening This Spring in China

Enjoy the warmer weather and natural beauty this season with these five magic destinations.

Spring in China is magic. A photographer’s dream. The natural beauty of Wuyuan in Jiangxi Province is at its peak this time of year, the land covered in a thick blanket of colorful flowers. In Yunnan Province, wind rushes through fields of rapeseed flowers now in bloom across Luoping, creating an ethereal yellow lake of blooms. During the wettest months in Guilin, the city becomes shrouded in mist, giving it an enchanting, dreamy lure.

It’s a wonderful season to experience the magic of China. Foreign tourists are yet to arrive. The blistering heat is still comfortably distant and the nasty winter chill lives only in memory.  Dress in layers and bring a raincoat: weather can be unpredictable. Even so, the well-prepared traveller can’t help but enjoy some of China’s magic this time of year.

1. Water Splashing Festival of the Dai People (April 13th to April 15th, 2013 in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province)

This festival marks the New Year celebration on the Dai calendar. Though primarily a religious ritual, this three-day festival is mostly about dousing your neighbour with water.

On day one, an open market is set up on the banks of the Lancang River for New Year’s shopping: a great place to pick up souvenirs and sample local delicacies. Local artists create sand drawings, dragon boat races are held, and in the evening, locals float paper lanterns out onto the river, driving away bad luck and bringing back prosperity for all.

The not-to-be-missed climax happens on the third day, when everyone puts on their best clothes and meets at the local temple where monks chant scriptures and symbolically splash a Buddha statue, a ritual called “bathing the Buddha.” After that, all bets are off. People flock to the streets, dousing and drenching anyone and everyone with pots, pans, bottles and jugs of water. When you get splashed, take it as a compliment. It means that person wishes you prosperity and good luck.

2. Sisters’ Rice Festival of the Miao People (April 24th to April 26th, 2013 in Taijiang, Shibing and Jianhe County, Guizhou Province)

Sometimes called the Sisters’ Meal Festival or Asian Valentine’s Day, this celebration is held every Spring along the banks of the Qingshui River. Local Miao girls make “sisters’ rice”: colourful glutinous rice from a dye concocted with special flowers and leaves collected in the mountains. The girls then dress in colourful robes and crowns and gather at the river, where they are met by the young men of the village, who single out and sing to the women and (traditionally) select their marriage partners.  Though essentially a celebration of spring and of love, other activities also take place: bullfighting, horse racing, and traditional music and dance. 

3. Luoyang Peony Fair (April 15th to April 25th, 2013 in Luoyang, Hunnan Province)

Popular among Chinese tourists and peony lovers in general, this festival takes place each Spring from mid-April to mid-May when the colourful peonies are in full bloom. Traditional folk performances also take place in the gardens against a background of thick, green leaves set against a mix of white, purple and yellow peonies.

The main venue of this annual festival is the Luoyang National Peony Garden in the town of Mongshan on the outskirts of Luoyang.  This fair is an absolute must-do for photographers both amateur and professional. The White Horse Temple and Longmen Grottoes are also can’t-miss attractions in the area. 

4. Labor Day Holiday Weekend (April 29th to May 1st, 2013)

What’s not to love about a holiday weekend? By now the weather is warming, the birds and chirping and most of the country is off on a blissful five-day holiday.

Avoid major tourist attractions if crowds aren’t your thing. Instead, get friendly with your neighbors and embrace your inner tourist. Holiday weekends are a chance to celebrate life with friends and family, to meet new people and experience new adventures. Cut loose from the working life and live a little. It’s spring. Feel the magic.

5. Celebrate the Rain

South China will be treated to an onslaught of rain sometime around April and May. The rains move north with each passing month. The “plum rains” or “meiyu” hit eastern China in May and June in time to see the fruit ripen. 

What’s not to love? Crowds will be thinner, flowers will be blooming from every angle, trees and plants will be turning a wild shade of green. Hike the wall. Make a pilgrimage to one of the four Buddhist holy mountains. Just be sure to bring a waterproof jacket and a solid pair of rainboots.  


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