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Neixiang greets spring with ox ritual

(chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2017-02-07

Local residents in Neixiang county in Nanyang, Henan province greeted the start of spring in their time-honored, colorful fashion on Feb 2, when a large crowd gathered to "whip the spring ox".

The ritual, which can be dated back to 3,000 years ago, is held each year at the beginning of "Start of Spring", the first term of China's traditional solar calendar that runs from Feb 3 to 17, and embodies residents' prayers for a rich harvest.

The "spring ox" itself is a large piñata-style model bovine made of clay and cloth, stuffed with sacrificial offerings such as grains and dried fruit, and then painted in bright colors.

Neixiang greets spring with ox ritual

Local leaders and residents worship a model "spring ox" during a ritual in Neixiang county in Nanyang, Henan province on Feb 2. The ceremony celebrates the beginning of "Start of Spring", the first term of China's solar calendar, and embodies local residents' prayers for a rich harvest. [Photo/dahe.cn]

The ox was first taken to a temple for the local agricultural god, where local leaders conducted a religious ceremony called "greeting spring", before being carried on a platform by locals in traditional costume to the fields, where the ox was made to symbolically "plough" the fields to symbolize a good harvest.

Next came the "whipping spring" phase of the ritual, where the model cow was taken to the Local Magistrate's Office Museum. Here, the local magistrate whipped the ox until it disgorged its bellyful of offerings, triggering a rush as local residents competed to grab the falling food. Catching the offering is believed to bring farmers good luck for the coming harvest.

Neixiang greets spring with ox ritual

A local in traditional official costume attends the traditional ritual "whipping the spring ox" in Neixiang county in Nanyang, Henan province on Feb 2. The ceremony celebrates the beginning of "Start of Spring", the first term of China's solar calendar, and embodies local residents' prayers for a rich harvest. [Photo/www.news.cn]

"We restarted the traditional ritual in 2005, sticking to the exact procedures in historical documents", said Wang Xiaojie, head of Neixiang Local Magistrate's Office Museum. "We'll continue to initiate more special activities to promote cultural heritages."

The ceremony has become very popular with local residents in recent years, particularly after the Neixiang government sponsored an exhibition displaying a series of Chinese folk traditions in Neixiang Local Magistrate's Office Museum in August 2016, in which "whipping the spring ox" came as the highlight and exposed Nanyang residents to the colorful local tradition.

Neixiang greets spring with ox ritual

A local in traditional official costume attends the traditional ritual "whipping the spring ox" in Neixiang county in Nanyang, Henan province on Feb 2. The ceremony celebrates the beginning of "Start of Spring", the first term of China's solar calendar, and embodies local residents' prayers for a rich harvest. [Photo/dahe.cn]

 

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