Dao Gan Jie (Lisu)
When: 7th-8th day of 2nd month of the lunar calendar
Where: Tengchong and Longling counties, Yunnan
Dao Gan festival is held every year by the Lisu people to commemorate the official, Wang Ji, who, in the Ming dynasty, was a great hero to the Lisu. Although ethnically Han himself, Wang Ji helped to train young Lisu men to be skilled fighters and helped the Lisu defend their lands from invaders. Wang Ji lived among the Lisu for many years and taught them new agricultural techniques as well as military skills. Unfortunately, Wang Ji was poisoned after being framed for the crime of treason, and the Lisu commemorate his death with this festival, which is much more exciting than the somber history suggests.
On Dao Gan festival Lisu participate in fire walking, in which they walk barefoot over hot burning coals, an activity called “xia huohai,” or “entering the fire-sea,” and sword climbing. Sword climbing, or “shang daoshan,” “ascending the sword mountain,” involves Lisu men competing to climb up ladders made of knives attached to bamboo poles. This is performed barefoot and without gloves, and the first person to reach the top of the ladder will do acrobatic tricks at the top and then set off fireworks before climbing back down. This heart-stopping performance is a must see for visitors to Lisu areas.