Kuoshi Festival of Lisu Ethnic Group

“Kuoshi” Festival and Bathing Pool Singing Gathering

The Lisu Nationality has many festivals, such as “Kuoshi Festival”, “New Rice Festival”, “Knife Stalk Festival”, “Torch Festival”, “Harvesting Festival”, “Bathing Pool Festival”, “Drawing-out Singing (a kind of antiphonal singing) Festival”, “Cross-bow Shooting Festival”, etc. 

“Kuoshi Festival” is also called ” Heshi Festival”. “Kuoshi” is transliteration of Lisu language, which means ” the beginning of new year” or ” the new year”. It is the grandest traditional festival for the Lisus. People used to decide the day of celebration by observing natural phenomenon, so they didn’t have the same fixed New Year’s Day in different places. Usually it’s between the last ten-day period of December and January of the next year in accordance to the Gregorian calendar. In December 1993, the government of the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture decided that the “Kuoshi Festival” would be celebrated from 20th to 22nd in December, so that Lisu people can welcome the New Year and celebrate the festival at the same time. 

During the festival, people generally make wine, butcher chicken and pigs and pound cakes. All kinds of foods are prepared. They break pine boughs and insert them on the door, the number of which is the same as that of men in the house. This implies to get rid of diseases and bring happiness and good luck. The same as custom of the Hans, they have family reunion dinner at New Year’s Eve. If someone were in other place far from home, the family members would leave a seat for him and put a bowl and a pair of chopsticks for him. In some places, people are not allowed to go to others’ homes, even if they are separated-living father and son or brothers. And this is relieved until the third day of the New Year. In most places, people gather on sunny ground or open areas since the first day of the New Year. They launch various kinds of recreational activities, such as singing in antiphonal style, dancing, swinging and crossbow-shooting, etc.

It’s interesting that the Lisus feed dogs the first piece of pounded cake in “Kuoshi Festival”. It’s said that this is to thank dogs for ” bringing grain seeds to the human world”. There are many legends about dogs and grain seeds among the Lisus. For example: in ancient time, human beings wasted too much grain. The God knew it and was very angry, so he ordered to take all the grain back to the Heaven. Human beings faced the disaster of getting drowned. At that disastrous moment, a dog dashed ahead regardless of its safety. It climbed up a pole to the Heaven, stole grain seeds back and saved human beings. 

“Bathing Pool Singing Gathering”, also called “Spring Bathing Festival”, is also Lisu people’s traditional festival and grand meeting. Now it is usually hold in the first month of the lunar year in hot springs of Denggen and Mazhanghe over 10 kilometers from the north of the Liuku city, which is the capital of the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture. When the time comes, people from near counties and regions, wearing rich dresses and bringing food, luggage and even cooking stuff, keep pouring in. Tents cover the place, which is quiet in normal times. People all crowd together, singing and smiling happily, and the scene is full of bustle and excitement. The “Spring Bathing Festival”, which used to be a day to take bath and cure diseases, now becomes a festival of revelry for people to spend holidays and dance and sing. Especially for youths at their life’s full flowering, they gather together in dozens or even hundreds to compete songs, poems and look for lovers. It lasts all through the night and they never feel bored with it.