Laba Festival celebration is a traditional Chinese festival. It takes place on the 8th of the 12th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. 

The festival originated in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) and popularized during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). Buddhism was widely accepted in the areas where Han minority lived. They believed that Sakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment on the eight day of the twelfth month. In the temples sutras chanting and preparing porridge become a custom. 

In celebration of the Laba Festival, Buddhist Temples offer Laba porridge to show their faith in Buddha. This porridge contains glutinous rice, red beans, millet, Chinese sorghum, peas, dried lotus root seeds, dried red dates, chestnut meat, walnuts, sunflower seeds, goji berries, and other healthy ingredients. The porridge is a nutritious winter meal full of amino acids, proteins, and vitamins, which people need. The cooked nuts and dried fruits encourage the wellness of the nervous system, nourish the heart, strengthen the spleen, and help with vitality. 

In Chinese Traditional Medicine there is the concept of nourishing the body with five grains. They are: rice, red bean, wheat, soybean and millet. The Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine said: “the five grains nourish the body, The five fruits help maintain health. The meat of kinds of animals benefit the health. The five kinds of vegetables serves as supplements. Together they supplement and nourish jingqi or the channel Qi.” These five grains are above all food. They nourish the spleen. They are to prevent and cure diseases and keep a person healthy. 

This tradition is very old. Some correlate the celebration to good harvest after yearly work. Can also be considered a similar tradition with the Thanksgiving day in the USA. When family is eating the porridge together, symbolize a good harvest for the next year. 

During the Laba festival, Shaolin Temple Yunnan offered this porridge to the public and Buddhist followers as a sacrifice to the ancestors. The Temple’s foreign disciples took part in this celebration, attending the special Buddhist ceremony, and serving the people. 

The celebration ended with Fangsheng, a special celebration to release animals into the wild. Today’s world is a world of war, famine, epidemics, natural disasters, and human-made calamities that occur one after another. The reason behind these is the karmic effect of killing animals. If a man could refrain from killing, he would be free from disasters and calamities. If the practices of non-killing could extend to a village, a county, a province, a country, and to the whole globe, the people would reap the reward of being free from disasters. 


Dr. Rhea Du

Dr. Rhea Du

International Shaolin Cultural Exchange Ambassador of Shaolin Temple Yunnan