Centennial Dragon Boat Competition at Taipei’s Riverside
Following the Tomb-sweeping Festival, local temperature begins its imminent climb, heralding the hot climate of the summer season. The hot and humid weather also heralds the approach of Dragon Boat Festival, a major event taking place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. In addition to reading articles on topics such as Qu Yuan’s life, traditional customs, zongzi, many people are preparing for the once-a-year dragon boat races. On the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, the riverbanks of Taiwan become the sites of heated competition for rowing teams. The scene of dragon boats racing on water with crowds cheering on the shoreline is a great example of an exciting sport for everyone.
However, with dragon boat races taking place every year in Taiwan, how much do you know about dragon boats and the members of dragon boat teams?
Dragon Boat: Differences and Variations
The history of the Dragon Boat Festival can be traced back to the Kingdom of Chu during the Warring States Period in Chinese history roughly two-to-three thousand years ago. There is no “set standard” for dragon boats; these vessels vary in appearance, standard, measurement, purpose, construction material, and even onboard equipments depending on geographical regions and eras. According to Taiwanese dragon boat craftsman Liu Ching-cheng, he has constructed dragon boats of different standards over the years, including those with seven-pair oars, eight-pair oars, nine-pair oars, eleven-pair oars, twelve-pair oars, as well as ones with body length between 33 and 60 Taiwanese-feet. The only limit on the appearance of the dragon boat, according to Liu, is one’s imagination of what a dragon looks like. In Taiwan alone, the differences between the dragon boats of Taipei and Tainan could be seen from the size, structure, and the patterns of these vessels. The placement of the dragonhead of Taipei’s dragon boats is much lower, making flag-grabbing much easier than its counterparts; the rudder is not fastened, allowing for steering and rowing. Meanwhile, the dragonhead of Tainan’s boats is much higher and the rudders are fixed to maximize the effectiveness of steering. Due to the variations in structure and types of dragon boats, the vessel also affects the “balance” of team members. Take for example the two different leagues of Taipei’s dragon boat competition – the “Large” dragon boats and “Small” dragon boats; each team has a team leader, coach, and a manager. For the large-scale boats, there are 18 rowers, 1 flag-grabber, and 1 drummer; for the smaller boats designed for high-school students, the standard is 10 rowers and 1 drummer. For teams from Tainan which uses boats with higher dragonhead placement, the position of flag-grabber is completely eliminated.
Following Ancient Customs with Painting the Dragon’s Eyes
On the eve before the actual dragon boat competition and the carnival, Taipei City Government would follow ancient customs in holding a ceremony to “paint the dragon’s eyes” on the newly finished dragon boats. In recent years, the ceremony has been held at the Qu Yuan Temple in Zhoumei Borough – the only temple in Taiwan dedicated to the worship of Qu Yuan. This year’s event will be no exception, with Mayor Hau Lung-bin presiding over the event as the main ceremony officer in charge of rituals such as “welcoming the Gods,” “painting the dragon’s eyes,” and “paying homage to the river.” Furthermore, a number of performing groups from local communities will also take part in a street parade to enhance the festive atmosphere and to introduce foreign friends and ambassadors to the finer parts of traditional culture.
Come Visit the 2011 Taipei Int’l Dragon Boart Festival!
Following the Eye-painting ceremony, the climax of the Dragon Boat festivities – the 2011 Taipei Int’l Dragon Boat Festival – will take place at the Dajia Riverside Park between June 4 and 6. Coinciding with the centennial of the ROC in 2011, the scale of both the dragon boat races and the carnival at the riverbank will surely surpass past events, taking the celebrations to a new level. The annual Taipei Int’l Dragon Boat Festival is the largest and most exciting dragon boat race on the island. In 2010, a total of 213 teams took part in the fierce competition. According to Taipei City Sports Office (SPO), the competition is divided into two “leagues” – the “Large” dragon boats and “Small” dragon boats – to encourage more people to participate and to promote the several-thousand-year-old dragon boat culture. To allow non-athletes and spectators to enjoy the festivities, there is also a fun-filled carnival at the riverside park. At the carnival, visitors will be able to experience the traditional activities such as wrapping zongzi and making an egg stand at noon, as well as fun events for the entire family. We invite everyone to come to this exciting three-day event at Taipei’s riverbank!
Schedule for the 2011 Taipei Int’l Dragon Boat Festival May 1 2011 Taipei Int’l Dragon Boat Race Orientation May 21 Dragon Boat Eye-painting Ceremony June 4-6 2011 Taipei Int’l Dragon Boat Festival
Department of Information Technology, Taipei City Government
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