Curious Fact of the Week: Shilin Stone Forest Torch Festival
The Shilin Stone Forest in the Yunnan Province of China is one of the most otherworldly places on earth, with towering limestone formations that seem like trees suddenly petrified. The Stone Forest is especially important to the Yi people, who have lived in the area for over 2,000 years, and each 24th day of the sixth lunar month (falling sometime in August) they hold the Torch Festival in the shadow of the rock giants.
A Yi story holds that one of the pillars of the Stone Forest is in fact a girl named Ashima who turned to stone after she was forbidden from marrying her love. She’s a key figure to the Torch Festival, where many of the young Yi court potential suitors through dance and song. But that’s just one part of the incredibly elaborate festival.
There are also pole-climbing competitions, traditional wrestling, and lion dancing (presumably a style of dance, not parading lions). Dancing is central to the festival, and one dance has the men and women facing each other while the men play a traditional stringed instrument and the women clap the beat while kicking in time.
There is also bull fighting, but in this case it’s not some puny human taking on a powerful beast, it is actually two ox battling. But the most staggering spectacle is saved for last. 400 torches are lit and paraded into the form of a fire dragon that casts its glow against the silhouettes of the stone forest in the night. The Stone Forest Torch Festival isn’t the only Yi Torch Festival, but it’s likely the most stunning with its stone landscape.
For so much more, keep reading the Curious Fact of the Week: Shilin Stone Forest Torch Festival on Atlas Obscura…
Ladakh (meaning ‘land of the passes’) is a cold desert in the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is divided into the mainly Muslim Kargil district and the primarily Buddhist Leh district. The people of Ladakh have a rich folklore, some of which date back to the pre- Buddhist era.
More informations and pictures here
Aaron Huey: Mitakuye Oyasin: All My Relations (Pine Ridge Reserve)
Aaron Huey has photographed the Oglala Lakota for seven years. The community of Sioux is confined to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, about 75 miles southeast of the Black Hills.
*I can’t find one description of this project that isn’t problematic, so I leave it to others to research on their own. Despite the accolades of TED talks, National Geographic and now a movie shot with OBEY, there are still complex issues over an outsider, entrenched in colonial implications, taking pictures of this community and presenting it to the outside world. Because of some issues over photos of sacred ceremonies that the photographer took, I have chosen to exclude those images from this post. THAT SAID the 7 year investment the photographer has made to establish real relationships with the community and explore a highly complex social/political/colonial issue can be respected.
The best thing to come out of this project is arguably the Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project. This collection tells the story of life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, told by the people of Pine Ridge in their own unedited words.