CHANGSHA, June 6 (Xinhua) -- A central Chinese mountain area on Thursday celebrated the Sheba Festival of the Tujia people, one of the largest ethnic minority groups in China, with huge gatherings and lively dances.
Thousands of Tujia community members gathered in Longshan County in Hunan Province, where parades and collective dances were held to honor gods and ancestors and pray for a good harvest.
With a population of over 8 million, Tujia is the seventh most populous of China's 55 ethnic minorities. They mainly inhabit mountainous areas that straddles provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou and Chongqing Municipality.
Longshan and its nearby regions are home to settlements that still speak the Tujia language, and their ancestral temples, the largest in the ethnic group, where grand rituals take place.
At 9 a.m., the grand ancestral temple of Xichehe Town was a crowded sight of red-and-green traditional costumes opulent with flower patterns and shining silver accessories.
The chief priest led the prayers in the Tujia language, followed by dancing of hundreds of villagers. The locals also raced dragon boats in the river to mark the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival.
The Sheba Festival, an important occasion for Tujia people to revel, socialize and pay tribute to ancestors, does not have a fixed date but usually precedes Dragon Boat Festival.