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Ancient water ritual highlights need for environmental protection

Meng Qingsheng and Zhang Kai
Updated: Apr 5,2017 10:56 AM

One of the most unusual Qingming Festival celebrations occurs in Southwest China’s Dujiangyan city, where locals enjoy the Water Releasing Ceremony.

‍The Sichuan region is best-known for its ancient irrigation system that dates back thousands of years.

The event involves traditional cultural elements and has received international recognition for its emphasis on water protection. It’s held to commemorate the completion of Dujiangyan’s irrigation system, and the ancient Chinese engineers who built it.

Zhang Guanjie, deputy director of Dujiangyan Scenic Area Management Bureau, says in ancient times, people used wooden tripod dams to plug the river to repair the waterway. But when the Qingming Festival came, they would yank the tripods apart and release the water to irrigate regions downstream.

At this year’s event, water collected from nine different countries converged into the river, in a symbolic attempt to draw attention to the global need to protect water resources.

Angelina Makeich from Ukraine said that human beings must think about protecting the planet and water resources, while Dino Goh from Malaysia expressed that the event constantly remind people to respect water, and that water is life.

Annual flooding plagued local people before this project was constructed around 250 BC. Its chief builder Li Bing, a local governor, diverted the river into a new channel, and set up intricate dams to facilitate the water flow.

The irrigation system here has blessed locals for more than 2,000 years. As part of a traditional ritual during the Qingming festival, people release water on this day, marking the beginning to a busy spring plowing season.

Now, it has evolved into an opportunity for many to embrace their traditional culture.

Irrigation made Sichuan the most productive agricultural region in ancient China. While the ceremony reminds people of the local farming culture, it’s also a ritual of thanksgiving, to the life-giving properties of water.