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Monihei Carnival in China – Traditions and Culture of more than 3,000 years
Friday, 1st May 2020
Sunday 3rd May 2020
- 1 What is the Monihei Carnival?
- 2 Who are the Wa People?
- 3 What is the history of the Monihei Carnival?
- 4 When is the Monihei Carnival?
- 5 Where is the Monihei Carnival?
- 6 How do they celebrate the Monihei Carnival?
- 7 How to get to the Monihei Carnival?
- 8 Where to stay for the Monihei Carnival?
- 9 What to Do and See in Cangyuan County
What is the Monihei Carnival?
The Monihei Carnival in China is all about getting down and dirty! The word “Monihei” in Chinese translates as “making yourself black, by smearing something on your body”. The Monihei Carnival is all about getting completely covered in mud!
The Monihei Carnival is celebrated by the Wa People, one of the 56 different Chinese minority ethnicities in China. This carnival is rooted in the Wa People’s creation story. The carnival is enjoyed by the entire community, members of all ages. Many tourists both domestically and from overseas come to enjoy the celebrations.
During the Monihei Carnival the Wa People smear mud, pot ash or natural paint on themselves and others’ faces in order to frighten away the evil spirits and seek peace. They consider this to be sacred and a sign of good fortune and health for the year to come. Participants will also say prayers for themselves and others, wishing them good will.
Who are the Wa People?
The Wa People are an ancient and mysterious minority, whose glorious culture has been around for over 3000 years. The Wa People today live mainly in northern Myanmar, as well as in Yunnan, China. About 600,000 live in Myanmar and 350,000 live in China.
The Wa People inhabited what was known historically as the Wa States. This territory is claimed to be their ancestral land, a rugged mountainous area located between the Mekong and Salween River. They live in relatively autonomous villages and mainly practice slash and burn agriculture still living in very traditional ways and practicing traditional customs.
What is the history of the Monihei Carnival?
The Wa People believe humans came from caves, which is known as Singangli in their language. Today, Sigangli is set up as a place for the Wa people to pay homage to their creation myths. The throwing of mud grew from an ancient tradition of the Wa People who used to exercise while wearing a kind of healthy paste on the face and body.
This tradition evolved from this little custom into a giant carnival where by smearing black mud onto other people you are wishing them all the best. The belief is that the more mud that you have on you, the more good health and fortune you will receive.
The Wa People adore the color black and view that color as a symbol of diligence and health. The mud “Niangbulo” which they use in carnival is dark with plants extracts. They believe that the darker one gets, it is a better symbol of diligence and health.
When is the Monihei Carnival?
The dates for the 2020 Monihei Carnival will run from the 1st of May and run until Friday the 3rd of May.
Where is the Monihei Carnival?
The carnival is held in the Cangyuan Va Autonomous County, one of only two Chinese Wa autonomous counties. This is located in the southwest border areas of China’s Yunnan province. This area is a gorgeous and highly-protected area and its original ecology has an abundance of plant and animals resources.
The mysterious Wa people live in the depths of the beautiful Awa Mountain, mainly located in Lincang and Pu’er Cities. It is a picturesque place with numerous primitive villages scattered over rolling hills and the Wa people still live in a way that preserves their old customs and cultures.
How do they celebrate the Monihei Carnival?
The “Monihei Carnival” starts of with an elaborate Grand Opening Ceremony that is filled with traditional dance and song performances. Ten of thousands of people will gather at the at Monihei Square in Sigangli Village.
After the traditional rituals the “Monihei” revelry kicks off. It kicks off with passionate dances by the Wa woman who swing their long hair and dance to heavy drum beats. Ten of thousands of people run around splash and paint each other with specifically-prepared mud.
Every is laughing, having fun and not at all caring about getting covered in mud! The Wa people are very sincere, enthusiastic and having so much fun. The carnival has been described as one of the happiest carnivals that you can join.
The carnival goes for a few days those days are filled with fun surprises and activities. Besides the mud fights, other carnival activities include an ethnic arts tour, ancient cliff painting worship, Wa folk song concerts and competitions about life in the Wa Mountain, as well as a campfire party. There is also a traditional Bullfighting Competition as well as a Steeplechase.
How to get to the Monihei Carnival?
There are actually two flights per day, that go from Kunming to Cangyuan. If you wish to do this you must book a flight early because during carnival there are many passengers each day. Additionally you can take a bus from Lincang, Fengqing, Yunxian, Kunming, Baoshan and several other destinations.
We suggest that you take a flight to Lincang. From there you can drive about 4 hours to Cangyuan WA Autonomous County. Either driving, taking a taxi or private shuttle which isn’t too expensive. While this is a long drive you will witness some stunning scenery along the way and you can stop off and visit the ethnic villages of Shuangjiang, Bulang, Dai, Wa, and Lahu along the way. To get a quote for a flight click here.
Where to stay for the Monihei Carnival?
While Cangyuan is not as popular as some of the other major tourist areas in China, you will have no problem finding some decent accommodation. The price is also quite cheap compared to the more touristy regions of China. There are also lots of home stay accommodation in Wengding Village especially during carnival when many locals rent out a room.
There are plenty of guest houses and hotel options. Although there is no luxury 4 or 5 star hotels there are some very decent and comfortable accommodation options if that is more what you are looking for.
Some of the better hotels in Cangyuan include Cangyuan Jinwa International Hotel, Cangyuan Jia Lin Sai Hotel, Cangyuan Mengluo Hotel, Cangyuan Yinfeng Inn and Lingcang Impression Monihei Business Hotel.
Check out some accommodation options here.
What to Do and See in Cangyuan County
The Monihei Carnival is worth attending because in addition to the fun atmosphere you get to appreciate the incredible and mysterious culture of the Wa people as well as appreciate the stunning natural scenery in Cangyan. You can also see the the Guangyun Buddhist Temple, view the great holy object of the Wa people which is a hundred-year wooden drum or see some 3000 year old cliff paintings.
The natural beauty of this region is breathtaking. It is a tranquil environment with lots of vegetation. You can admire the Sea Cloud, mountains and the heavenly Lake. The Sea Cloud in the Awa Mountain is a natural spectacle where thick clouds form over deep valleys in high mountains. The Heavenly Lake is a nature reserve that sits on top of the mountains.
The famous cliff paintings were created around 3,000 years ago, and are the oldest cliff paintings in China. There are 11 paintings carved on the cliff usually 1,500 meters above sea level, depicting the daily life and work of locals at the time. The paintings are said to change color in accordance with variations in sunlight, temperature and weather.
You can visit the Wengding Village to experience the unique and profound culture of the Wa people. The Wengding Village preserves some old customs like pulling the wooden drum and bullfighting. The wooden drum dance is an important traditional dance of sacrificial activities. It is the most well-preserved and last primitive village of China.
Wengding Village still retains its original architectural style with the Wa people living in bamboo stilt-houses that have grass roots. The totem and flagpole of Thervada, stand tall and upright in the only flat village ground. Many scary looking ox heads hang around the village as the ox is considered sacred by the Wa nationals.
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