The Miao Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the Qingshui River from 24th to 27th of the fifth lunar calendar month. It is the most important celebration of the Miao people who live in the Southeast Guizhou province. The Miao Dragon Boat Festival differs from the one of Han Chinese, which celebrates on different dates, (* 5th day of the fifth lunar calendar month for Han Chinese) different traditions and origins. Miao Dragon Boat Festival celebrates its hero, Guya, as in Miao’s folk story killed the evil dragon. Each year around thirty to forty thousand Miao people celebrate this festival.
According to Miao customs, people can send their boats down the river after the 16th of that month before the festival, provided they have finished their harvest. The earlier the boat is launched, the more diligent that family is. The Miao people consider it a shame if they don’t finish their harvest before the festival begins.
The Dragon Boat
The Miao dragon boats are exquisite. Being approx. 20 meters in length and 1 meter in width, the dragon boat is usually made by trunks tied together. It is comprised of a mother boat and two barges at both sides. The fore is fitted with a large-sized dragon head, on the horns of which are written such words as 风调雨顺”favorable weather for crop raising” and 国泰民安 means the country is prosperous and people live in safety. The buttock called “Phoenix Tail” is inserted with fragrant grass. Both the fore and the buttock are raised above water surface.
On this festival, dragon boats are rowed for competition. The dragon boat racing is usually held on the Qingshui River with spectacular audience. Boatmen paddle continuously to avoid the dragon boat to pause in the mid way and keep it moving to the terminal. The winner will be awarded a silk banner. After competition, the boatmen are given a bunch of grass and throw the grass into the river for the purpose of driving off evil spirits. The festival has its auspicious meaning. After the festival comes to an end, every village will slay the fattest pig in the village to reward all villagers for their support to the festival.
Besides competition, the dragon boats are also used as transportation tool to visit their relatives in other villages. Before the dragon boat sets out, someone sings an auspicious song to the boatmen, wishing them a bon voyage. The crew rows the boat from one village to another, when they reach a village; they fire guns to announce their arrival. The villagers set off firecrackers and meet them, then prays are made to the dragon to bestow happiness on each community. After lunch, the boats stop alongside the river bank. Pigs, goats, ducks and geese are presented to the crew and the headman. The boatmen eat glutinous rice balls and meat on the boats. It is said that after eating food from a dragon boat, one will be safe from disaster and everything will go smoothly.
Horse racing and bullfights are also held on the festival, families gather by the river and chat. When night falls, young people sing their folk songs to compete with each other.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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