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Miao Dragon Boat Festival


 
 
 On the 24th day of the fifth lunar month, Miao people along the Qingshui River in southeast Guizhou will celebrate their own Dragon Boat Festival for good harvest, agreeable weather, peaceful life and prosperous country. Compared to Han Chinese’s Dragon Boat Festival featuring wide popularity, far-reaching influence, grand scale and global footprints, Miao Dragon Boat Festival is left pale in comparison. Despite of its humble grassroots background, this three-day festival is fueled with dazzling festivities include bullfighting, horse racing, dragon boat racing, drum-beating as well as Reed-pipe singing and dancing. Hence, it is really something. By far, it remains a highlight on Miao people’s calendar. As a half-ritual half-sport activity, Miao Dragon Boat Festival is a pastime of men, which mirror their strength, wisdom and tactics.
 
miao dragon boat festival
 Miao Dragon Boat Festival is to Miao men just like Sisters’ Meal Festival is to Miao women. The formers is known as a manly sport mirroring their strength and wisdom while the latter reflecting the beauty and talents of Miao ladies. If your trip coincides with these two festivals, you should clap your hands and jump with joy.
 
 
 

Two versions circulate regarding this festival’s origination:


Version One: once upon a time there lived a benevolent and brilliant Dragon King, who happened to be a drunker. One day, after bibbing several bottles of Maotai(the best white wine which makes Guizhou famous home and abroad), he was in such an illusory state that mistook the rain steps during the ritual. As a result, rain poured into one village for 3 days and nights, which resulted in massive death. Jade Emperor was in such a rage that he chopped this king into several chucks before throwing them into the river. Tragedy followed. Villagers suffered droughts during the following years. One Miao man came up with a solution. He invented a boat, and ordered his companions to paddle along the Qingshui River the day this king was killed. To their surprise, the Dragon King sprang to life and brought rain to them again.
 
miao dragon boat festival
 Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture is cut through by Qingshui River, which literally means Crystal Water River, and it is a well-deserved name. Meandering its way 77km long, it absorbs a serial of streams and brooks before flowing into the Dongting Lake. Set against the endless rolling hills, the jagged and poetic landscape, over 50 Miao and Dong villages thrive along Qingshui River’s bank, with each leaving its stamp on the idyllic surroundings. Fish and firs flourish here, however, the extreme bio-diversity is not the whole story. The bewitching people and their lesser-known yet captivating festivals, hold the key to its misted glamour. Guizhou, the last hidden kingdom in south China, unveils her charm slowly. The spectacle it presents will both overwhelming and irresistible.
 


Version Two:  In Shidong Miao Village, there lived a fisherman, who lived with his son. One day, when they casted nets into the river, a dragon popped up and kidnapped his son. Burning with furious, the father set a fire to the Dragon Palace and leveled it to the ground. The father searched everywhere for his son crazily, but in futile. Hence, he chopped the dragon into several pieces, and carried them all the way back to village. Villagers all gathered to feast. After that, a strange thing occurred: darkness ruled the village for nine days and nine nights. This curse was not broken until one day a local Miao woman went to Qingshui River to rinse clothes. The washing stick she used produced clattering sounds, which was imitated by her child. In no time, the darkness gave way to blue sky again. Inspired, villagers along this river preserve this practice in the form of a distinctive festival, which showcases the pinnacle of their culture and lifestyle.
 
miao dragon boat festival
 Dragon, a symbol of luck and strength, is an awe-inspiring totem of Miao people.
 
 

Interesting Customs

 
 
miao dragon boat festival
 
 
 Embracing the core values of local villagers, such as diligent, easy-going, tolerant and optimistic, this festival obeys a network of intricate rules.
 
 
miao dragon boat festival
 
 
First, fail to finish planting the rice plants prior to this festival will be a source of a shame. Hence, villagers will spare no effort to finish all the labor, if not in advance, at least in time.
 
 
miao dragon boat festival
 
 
Second, those who do not get along well with each other are expected to shake hands and work as a team during the contest.
 
 
miao dragon boat festival
 
 
 Third, a simplified yet mysterious witchcraft will be performed before the competition kicks off. During the ritual, umbrellas, rice, grass, paper money and white rooster will be used as sacrifices. (If you are an early bird, you can catch up this scene).
 
 
 
dragon boat festival
 
 
Fourth, the dragon boat racing team usually consists of one Gutou, one teenage boy and 36 well-built sailors. Elected by villagers, Gutou is usually the most revered and popular person. The sailors, in no exception, are all strong men. Wooden paddle in hand and rain hat in head, they look like warriors.
 
 
 
dragon boat festival
 
 
Fifth: Miao people build their dragon boats in a unique way. Stout fir trees are carefully selected before being carved into canoes later. Dragon boats always come in triples. The middle one equipped with a mighty dragon head with colorful paintings, exquisite sculptures and banners, is known as the Mother Boat, which serves to contain gifts from nearby villages, such as goose, ducks, sheep and pigs. While the two subsidiary boats, the wings of the Mother Boat, are occupied by the sailors, who will paddle them forward with lightening speed without interruption. Each village builds its own dragon boat, which is well-protected within the wooden house along the riverbank. Hence, it is not surprising these boats can survive decades, even over a century.
 
 
miao dragon boat festival
 
 
Sixth, when they reach the terminal, a fat duck will be freed into the river, and the participants will chase after it. It is a scene full of fun. In the end, the exhausted sailors will be awarded with a grand banquet. The glamour of the day will extent to the night. Bonfires will be set up, Miao girls and boys will sing and dance till day breaks.
 
miao dragon boat festival
miao dragon boat festival
 
 
 
miao dragon boat festival
 miao dragon boat festival
 
 
 


 

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