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Jennifer and Ali get besieged and soaked in Jing Gu

Alice and Jennifer in China: Dai Water-Splashing Festival

by on May 14th, 2013

Back in the town of Jing Gu, Jennifer and Ali get fully involved in a rather wet tradition.

The Buddhist Water-Splashing Festival (known as Songkran in Thailand) is the Dai people’s most important traditional event. Ancient myth holds that twelve women helped to rid the world of an oppressive demon-king by beheading him with a single hair from his own head. The Dai people showed their gratitude by splashing the women with water to rinse the demon’s blood from their clothes. Water in Dai culture symbolises emotion and wisdom and splashing people is a great expression of goodwill. Posters showed young women in beautiful traditional dress scattering drops of sparkling water.

In reality our conspicuous little party of Guailo drew the focus of all water cannon. We were soaked within minutes by Dai people of all ages, armed with giant water pistols, buckets, bowls and water balloons. We had water tipped on us from balconies, full balloons bursting on our heads and toddlers aiming their fire in our faces. Nothing for it but to tool up and send some goodwill back.

We ended up in a beautiful square under a cloud of dragonflies, shaded by ancient banyan trees and a giant pagoda, with a huge audience roaring their approval at the better-aimed shots.

Celebrations continued into the evening with a feast hosted by the garrulous Mr Li and his family. Wonderful succulent wild greens, glorious chilli fried tofu and delicious goat soup, complete with toothy mandible. Then much toasting and obligatory downing the firewater – ‘Gambei!’ It was a memorable day in a remote corner of beautiful puerh country.

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