Dai culture recently piqued my interest, and thus I have undertaken a small translation project. The Water-Splashing Festival is the annual must-see event for China travellers (though it may be noted that I went to Xishuangbanna a week prior, and had a lovely time without the company of hordes of tourists). Asia Harvest, a Christian proselytizing group, made a short movie about the festival and shares their version of the festival’s roots.
And so I’ve undertaken a project to translate different versions of the story, just for fun. The first installment is a short translation of the legend of the Water-Splashing Festival, sourced from a Chinese government informational website. Here is the first installment:
Xishuangbanna Daizu mythology: In ancient times, there was an evil king whose misdeeds were numerous. The people despised him, and conceived multiple plans to kill him, none of which succeeded. The king’s neck was his Achille’s heel, for only there could he be killed.
Seven sisters took advantage of the king in his deep sleep, pulling up his head and forcefully cutting him at the neck, sending his head rolling. But as soon as his head rolled onto the ground, it suddenly burst into flames. One sister grabbed the head and hugged it, and the flames immediately were extinguished. To avoid a big fire, she and her six sisters took turns hugging the head, switching every year. Every year when they were switching off, the people splashed water on the girl, rinsing her body of the head’s filth, washing away her year of arduous labor, and praying for a new year without disaster or hardship. From this old story came the new Water-Splashing Festival.
Translated by Hannah Lincoln 2011