Double Third Festival: A big day for Li ethnic minority

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The Li ethnic minority is concentrated on Hainan Island and most of its people still live in an agrarian society. On the third day of the third lunar month (Double Third Festival), Li communities across the island hold various celebrations. Known as Funianfu in the Li language, it is a day for young people to find a partner and for everyone in the community to commemorate their ancestors. The festival was listed as a national intangible heritage in 2006.

The Tale of the Lark Girl

Once upon a time, the people on Hainan Island were blighted with an unusual drought. One day, a young man named Yayin dreamed that a lark would help the people survive. When he woke up, he took his nose flute and climbed to the top of Wuzhi Mountain. Three days and nights he spent on the mountaintop, and eventually the melody of his flute attracted a lark. Yayin chased the bird through the mountains until it was too exhausted to fly any further. Suddenly it transformed into a beautiful girl. Moved by Yayin's sincerity, the girl agreed to help the people of Hainan.

The bamboo pole dance – a cultural tradition of the Li ethnic group. 

The Lark Girl saved the people from the terrible drought, but soon afterwards a chieftain coveted the girl's beauty and ordered his servants to capture her. When he heard that the Lark Girl was in danger, Yayin rushed to save her. They hid together in a cave. The chieftain, in his jealousy, gave orders to set the cave on fire, but at that very moment dark clouds gathered and thunder roared. Suddenly the mountain collapsed and rocks cascaded down, crushing the chieftain and his servants to death. People saw Yayin and the girl transform into birds and soar into the sky. They wished the couple well with much singing and dancing.

This is said to have happened on the third day of the third lunar month. The date has been an important festival for the Li people ever since, and is a symbol of Li culture.

The story of Yayin and the Lark Girl is a classic example of a Chinese folk tale. Told and retold amongst folk communities since ancient times, these oral histories are passed from generation to generation and are a treasured part of their culture. Mirroring everyday life, these stories often reflect the way people relate to the world around them and the values upheld by their communities, praising integrity, diligence, kindness, and wisdom, while dismissing laziness and selfishness.

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