China is known for its rich cultural heritage and a history that spans thousands of years. Within this history, you’ll find a tapestry of traditions, and among them are the Traditional Chinese Festivals. One of the oldest of these festivals is Chunshe, a spring festival that dates back more than two millennia.
Chunshe: The Ancient Spring Celebration
Chunshe, also known as Spring Community Day, has its origins in China. Initially, during the Shang Dynasty and the Western Zhou, it served as a carnival for lovers to meet and enjoy each other’s company. Over time, it transformed into a ritual to honor Tudishen, the God of the Soil and the Ground. This festival usually falls on the fifth Wu Day, which occurs after Lichun, near Chunfen. Depending on the lunar calendar, it can fall on various dates like February 2, 8, 12, or 15.
#A History of Over 2000 Years
Chunshe’s history is a long and storied one, tracing back to oracle bones, making it one of the oldest Chinese festivals. It continued as a significant tradition in China until the Yuan Dynasty. Today, while parts of China still observe the custom of worshipping Tudigong on February 2 of the lunar calendar, a new celebration, Tudidan, has evolved. However, the spirit of Chunshe lives on in the Longtaitou Festival, celebrated in northern China.
#The Journey of Chunshe Through the Ages
Chunshe’s story can be summarized as follows: “originating in the period of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties, springing up in the Qin and Han dynasties, continuing in Wei, Jin, the Northern and Southern dynasties, flourishing in the Tang and Song dynasties, and declining in Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.”
#Two Types of Chunshe
Chunshe can be divided into two types based on different hosts: official and folk Chunshe. Official celebrations were grand and solemn, with complex ceremonies, while folk celebrations were vibrant and full of life. People celebrated with drumming, feasting, drinking, and community dramas. These festivities helped shape the Chinese word “Shehui,” meaning society.
#Sheri: Spring and Autumn Festivals
The festival of Sheri, or Community Day, is held twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn. Ancient Chinese believed that prayers offered in spring could reap rewards in autumn, making it a significant cultural celebration. The legacy of Sheri includes temples dedicated to Tudishen, which are still common throughout China.
#Chunshe’s Ancient Origins
Chunshe’s roots trace back to the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties when people realized the importance of the land and began to worship it. As agriculture became the primary means of sustenance, the concept of the “deity of the land” emerged. People started to offer sacrifices to the land, eventually evolving into what we now know as Chunshe.
#The Purpose of Chunshe
Chunshe served several purposes, including praying for a good harvest, favorable weather, good luck, and a prosperous marriage with healthy children. It was also a way to seek victory and offer thanks to the deity of the land and the deity of the five grains.
#Different Types of Chunshe
Chunshe could be hosted by various individuals and had distinct types, including Da’she (official celebrations), Guoshe (feudatories’ celebrations for the people), Houshe (feudatories’ own celebrations), and Zhishe (officials’ group celebrations). Official Chunshe was a government-funded and grand event, while the folk version, known as Li’she, was usually presided over by local government officials, with costs shared by the community.
#The Lively Scene of Chunshe
During the Spring and Autumn Period, Chunshe underwent significant changes. The types of Chunshe were determined not by the host’s rank but by regions. Zhi’she gradually evolved into Li’she, the folk Chunshe, which was often presided over by local government officials and jointly funded by the community. This form of Chunshe was a time for celebration, feasting, and community participation.
#Chunshe as a Social Sacrifice
In the early Qin period, Chunshe’s importance grew, and people attached great significance to it. Social sacrifices were crucial, and any interference, even minor, was met with resistance. Chunshe brought communities together for a shared celebration, embodying the essence of “Shehui” or society.
Chunshe, with its rich history and cultural significance, is a testament to the enduring traditions of Traditional Chinese Festivals. It remains a fascinating celebration of China’s heritage, reflecting the deep connections between its people and the land that sustains them.