People hold lanterns to go on a parade on the night of Nian Li in Xinyi county-level city, Maoming.
Why do people still celebrate Nian Li?
In 2012, Maoming Nian Li was listed as a provincial intangible cultural heritage. According to historical materials, Nian Li had been very popular in the Qing Dynasty. It can be dated back to even longer ago.
As for the origin of Nian Li, there are several versions. Some said it evolved from the Lantern Festival. Some said it is because of Lady Xian. For the latter version, there are historical materials recording that the Xian family of Lady Xian started the Nian Li festival which becomes how it is today after long-term evolution. That also explains why Lady Xian is often seen in the parade for worshiping gods during Nian Li celebrations in Maoming.
A table of dishes for the banquet on Nian Li.
On Nian Li, entertaining guests at banquets is not aiming for returns. All guests are welcome, even strangers. Therefore it is also called “free banquet”. The most important meaning is probably the joyful gathering of long-time-no-see relatives and friends. Now it is also a social setting for young people to meet new friends.
Nian Li is also a stage for folk art, promoting the inheritance and development of traditional art. In different regions, there are different folk art performances. For example, Piao Se in Xinyi county-level city, puppet show in Gaozhou county-level city, Kylin dance in Dianbai county, Nuo dance in Huazhou and so on. As a result, villagers get to enjoy a rich variety of cultural activities as well.