March 3rd(the traditional Chinese calendar) Northern Emperor’s Birthday: Pearl River Delta Celebrates Traditional Customs

As spring approaches, the Pearl River Delta region is celebrating the annual grand festival of the Northern Emperor’s Birthday on March 3rd. This day not only carries on the ancient tradition of the Double Third Festival in ancient China, but also showcases the unique celebration activities of the Northern Emperor’s Birthday in the Lingnan region. People gather together to celebrate this traditional festival filled with mythological and folk customs.

The Double Third Festival, once as ancient and grand as the Flower Festival, originated in the pre-Qin period and fell on the first “si” day of March. Since the Wei and Jin dynasties, this festival has been fixed on the third day of the third lunar month. In history, the Double Third Festival was an important festive occasion for both officials and civilians, featuring outings to riverside areas, playing in the water, enjoying the scenery, feasting, and purging misfortunes.



Although the popularity of the Double Third Festival declined during the Song and Ming dynasties due to the rise of Neo-Confucianism, in the Lingnan region, especially in the Pearl River Delta area of Guangdong, the celebration of March 3rd incorporated new elements such as the Northern Emperor’s Birthday and continued to thrive. The Northern Emperor, also known as Xuanwu or Zhenwu, is a mythological deity in ancient Chinese mythology associated with water in the northern region. The people of Lingnan worship water deities, making the celebration of the Northern Emperor’s Birthday particularly grand. On this day, large-scale processions are held, creating a lively atmosphere.



On April 11th, the 14th “Litchi Bay and New West Gate” Folk Culture Event, known as “March 3rd Litchi Bay,” kicked off at the Renwei Ancestral Temple. As the largest and oldest Northern Emperor’s temple in Pantang Enzhou’s 18 villages, the Renwei Ancestral Temple witnesses the changes and inheritance of this traditional festival. The event includes activities such as outings during the Double Third Festival, Northern Emperor’s Birthday customs, and a long-table feast, among others, with a larger scale and richer content than in previous years.



During the event, people dress in new clothes and participate together in this grand celebration, either with their families or friends. Exciting activities such as lion dances, Northern Emperor’s processions, and the long-table feast allow people to fully experience the charm of traditional culture and the unique beauty of folk customs.


From the Double Third Festival a thousand years ago to today’s celebration of the Northern Emperor’s Birthday, the mythological elements have gradually faded, but the atmosphere of traditional folk culture has become even stronger. The celebration of this traditional festival not only carries on and respects history but also promotes and develops traditional culture. Let us join hands to inherit and promote traditional culture, allowing it to shine even more brilliantly in the new era.


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