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The Torch Festival

Held around the 24th of the 6th lunar month, the Torch Festival is a traditional festival of the Yi and Bai peoples of southwestern China. The Yis live in compact communities in Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi. Of these communities, the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan is the largest.

During the festival, torches are erected in front of every household, and a pile of faggots of several meters high is erected in the center of a square. When night falls, and gongs and horns are sounded, people of all ages come forward to ignite the faggot pile. Cheerful flames leap up to the sky, crackling and spluttering. Shouts of joy together with the sound of the gongs and drums make a sea of rejoicing.

Then the torch parade begins. People carry torches and walk around their houses and fields, like so many flying fiery dragons. Young people chase and sport about, filling the countryside with gladness and laughter. Other activities include scattering torches, lighting fire arches and fireworks, painting faces, and bull fighting.

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