Feeling the burn

Updated 2018-05-14 11:31:03 China Daily

The recent Dragon Burn, a satellite Burning Man event in Anji county, Zhejiang province, draws participants to set up themed camps and arrange activities that promote community spirit. (Photo provided to China Daily/Tu Tu, Xiaofang Suskita)

A recent satellite event in Zhejiang of the world-famous Burning Man festival inspires Camilla Tenn to consider attending its U.S. incarnation.

This past May Day holiday, I found myself hurtling through the undergrowth in bamboo-blanketed Anji county, Zhejiang province, triple-checking my seat belt as our bus sped along increasingly narrower dirt roads.

A group of Beijing-based friends and I were making our way to a satellite Burning Man event called Dragon Burn, deep in the heart of the forest. In the distance we could see the shimmer of the sunset reflecting off a vast reservoir, and knew we were close.

Colleagues had warned me that poisonous snakes inhabit the wilderness there, and someone in the dedicated WeChat group had created a panic about leeches. I was not feeling too confident in the strength of my mosquito repellant to protect me from such foes.

Once we had arrived, however, I felt in safe hands. The local police were on hand to register us foreigners-meaning no need to rush off to the local station once we'd set up our tents-and veteran "burners" were handing out maps directing us further into the wilderness.

The recent Dragon Burn, a satellite Burning Man event in Anji county, Zhejiang province, draws participants to set up themed camps and arrange activities that promote community spirit. (Photo provided to China Daily/Tu Tu, Xiaofang Suskita)

First held in 2014, Dragon Burn is an official Burning Man regional event promoting the "10 principles", namely: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy.

At first I wasn't entirely sure what that all meant, other than that I needed to take all my trash with me when I left, and be open to new people and experiences.

The community spirit of the Burn meant I was soon caught up.

People strap metal boxes to their belts to collect their cigarette butts and scan the campsite to pick up any debris, regardless of whether or not it was theirs.

Artists flock from across China to create interactive installations and activities that promote community spirit and the event's core ideas.

Many artworks this year required groups of people working together to activate or experience fully. Some were hidden in the forest, made just barely visible from the main path by their ethereal glow, while others stood many meters tall and lit up the reservoir.

Themed camps put on dozens of workshops to exchange knowledge, insights and experiences, from dancercise and meditation classes, to a cook-off and candle making.

The recent Dragon Burn, a satellite Burning Man event in Anji county, Zhejiang province, draws participants to set up themed camps and arrange activities that promote community spirit. (Photo provided to China Daily/Tu Tu, Xiaofang Suskita)

The main event is the Burn itself, where fire eaters, breathers and dancers perform in front of a colossal dragon effigy before it is set alight, to roars of delight from the crowd.

The culmination of the long weekend, the Burn reflects on the spirit of its 10 principles, as the elemental, even primal, power reminds us of our innate humanity-a feeling best experienced when joining together to celebrate around a fire.

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