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The Origin of China's Spring Dragon Festival

Claudia Miclaus Feb 27, 2020
Among China's spectacular festivals, the Dragon Head Festival is a festival of the spring. Keep reading to know all about its origins and the reason behind its celebration.
China covers a large area and consists of a number of ethnic groups. Different areas and ethnic groups have formed different customs concerning food, clothing, shelter, transport, festivals, courtesies, sacrifices, religion, wedding and funerals.
All these customs have lasted for hundreds of years and have become part of the culture. At the same time, some of them have become the festivals and customs shared by all the Chinese people and merged into the traditional Chinese culture.

The Festival

Spring Dragon Festival falls on the second day of the second lunar month. The folklore says that, every second day of the second lunar month is the time when the dragon in charge of the rain lifts its head. From that day on, rainfall gradually increases, and so it is called the 'Spring Dragon Festival' or 'Dragon Head Festival'.
On the occasion of this festival, families in most of the areas in the northern China, go to wells or rivers to fetch water early in the morning, with their lanterns on. Then they come back home and turn the light off, burn joss sticks, and offer sacrifices. Earlier, this ceremony was called 'attracting the dragon in the field'.
On this day, every family should eat noodles, which means 'lifting the dragon's head'; fry cakes, which means 'eating the dragon's gallbladder' (the Chinese believe that this holds the courage).
And they should also have popcorn so that golden beans can blossom; dragon god can return to heaven and distribute the rain to the earth and crops can grow well.

The Origins

A story about its origin prevails among people. In the Tang Dynasty, the queen Wu Zetian came to power and became the empress, which irritated Yuhuang Dadi in the heaven. He ordered the four dragon gods who are in charge of the rain, not to rain a single drop for three years.
However, the dragon god who is in charge of the heaven river couldn't bear to see the people being driven to death, so it broke Yuhuang Dadi's rule and secretly rained once. Yuhuang Dadi became so angry that he kept the dragon god under the mountains as a kind of torture. The stele on the mountain read as follows:
"The dragon king violates the heavenly rules by dropping rain
And is subject to thousands of years of punishment on earth
If ever he wishes to go back to the heavenly palace
It's only when golden beans give birth to flowers." 
To save the kindhearted dragon god, people went everywhere to find the golden beans. On the second day of the second lunar month the next year, people found the secret of golden beans when they were tedding the seeds of corn.
Since the corn is just like golden beans, isn't that the golden beans blossom when the corn is popped? So every family began to pop the corn and set up the altar to offer the blossomed 'golden beans' as sacrifices. The dragon lifted its head and saw all this.
Knowing that people are trying to rescue, it cried to Yuhuang Dadi: 'The golden beans have blossomed, so please set me free!' Yuhuang Dadi had no choice but to call the dragon god back to heaven and give back the job.
Actually, it is just the characteristic of North China Monsoon that the rainfall begins to grow after the second day of the second lunar month. However, seen from another perspective, this festival also shows people's wishes for fine weather and a better harvest.