The history of the Shangsi Festival dates back to ancient times, and in the ancient China, Shangsi had already become a large-scale folk festival. With the arrival of spring and clear, bright scenery, people would step out of their homes, gather by the water, and participate in rituals to purify and dispel inauspicious energies.

According to historical records, the Shangsi Festival was already popular during the Spring and Autumn Period. The term "Shangsi" first appeared in Han Dynasty literature. This festival had a unique custom before the Han Dynasty, serving as a carnival organized by the government for young men and women. The "Zhou Li • Di Guan • Mei Shi" recorded, "In the middle of the spring month, men and women were ordered to gather. At that time, those who ran away were not restrained." The term "ran away" refers to young men and women meeting outdoors, and besides bathing by the riverside, romantic affairs during these gatherings were not considered a violation of customary norms.

The Shangsi Festival is also associated with witchcraft activities aimed at warding off evil spirits using orchid-infused water. Orchids were considered spiritual entities with a fragrant aroma. Before conducting significant rituals, ancient people observed a period of fasting, including the use of the best bathing method at that time, the "orchid-infused bath."

March 3rd is also known as the Daughter's Festival or "Peach Blossom Festival." It served as a rite of passage for ancient Han girls, typically marked by the "Ji Li" ceremony. On this day, daughters engaged in playful activities, such as playing by the water, picking orchids, wearing new clothes, singing and dancing, all aimed at dispelling evil spirits.

After the Wei and Jin Dynasties, due to the prevailing trend of embracing nature and indulging in landscapes, the significance of purifying during the Shangsi Festival diminished. The focus shifted towards welcoming spring and enjoying scenic outings. The festival evolved into a day for the royal family, nobles, scholars, and literati to gather by the water for feasts, giving rise to another important tradition – the Qu Shui Liu Shang, or the "wine flowing in the water" ritual.

In recent times, the Shangsi Festival on the third day of the third lunar month has gradually faded away, but it still lingers in some regions of southwestern China.

January 14, 2024

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