Things worth knowing about Shehuo Festival as rural China's new year festivity
Updated 11:03, 30-Jan-2019
By Tianran He, Xu Zhengyin
01:37

To some, it may seem confusing that Spring Festival, otherwise known as Chinese New Year, takes place on a different date each year. That's because instead of the standard Gregorian calendar we're used to, its dates are calculated using a lunisolar calendar, which takes into account the movement of the moon, in addition to the sun's. 

The Chinese New Year festivities begin on the first day of the first lunar month and ends two weeks later on the 15th day. Though the Lantern Festival is commonly celebrated on this day, for many people in northern China, this is the day of the Shehuo Festival.

Red lanterns are hung across the roofs in Pingyao. /CGTN Photo

Red lanterns are hung across the roofs in Pingyao. /CGTN Photo

A Dying Tradition

"Shehuo" literally translates as "Earth and Fire" and is a festival mostly celebrated in the countryside. It's a centuries-old practice that reminds us of the importance of agriculture in Chinese society. 

During Shehuo, people pray to the god of Earth for a good harvest and to the god of Fire for giving them warmth and the ability to cook. While the festival is celebrated in many towns and villages across the country, one of the biggest is held in the ancient city of Pingyao in north China's Shanxi Province. 

A "land boat" is used to pray for a good harvest. ‍/CGTN Photo

A "land boat" is used to pray for a good harvest. ‍/CGTN Photo

In the past, villages often had their own performance troupe that would make their way around the streets to bring good fortune to all the residents. Since many of the traditional art and dances forms displayed during the Shehuo Festival are in decline, efforts are being made to preserve the folk customs. 

In Pingyao, troupes from nearby towns and villages gather to put on a grand street parade and engage in some friendly competition during the Shehuo Festival. From dragon and lion dance crews to stilt walkers and "land boats," everyone has come together to put on a great show in order to appease the gods. While a good harvest is less crucial to local these days, there's no doubt that the sounds and sights of Shehuo will help start the Year of the Pig with a bang!