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Traditional dragon boat ceremony in Guangzhou's Yangji Village
Update: 2024-06-07     Source: Yangcheng Evening News

On June 5th, Yangji Village in Yuexiu District, Guangzhou, held an exuberant dragon boat "caiqing" and trial rowing ceremony. Unlike other central districts, Yuexiu has fewer villages that host dragon boat activities, making Yangji Village's event particularly special. The unearthing of the dragon boat conducted by landlords in Yangji brought excitement to the dragon boat community.

The ceremony began at 1:00p.m. with members of the Yangji Village dragon boat team gathering at the village's ancestral temple for the initiation. According to the legend, the dragon boats, having "slept" for a year, are somewhat "sluggish." Thus, people need to perform the caiqing and trial rowing rituals to awaken the dragon boats and prepare them for the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival.

Following the initiation, participants paraded with dragon boat heads, tails, gongs, umbrellas, and religious items toward the Yangji River. Very soon, thousands of cheerful spectators lined up along the river bank. Among the various items brought aboard, pots with green rice seedlings stood out, symbolizing wishes for favorable weather and bountiful harvests in the coming year.

One of the standout participants was Qin Jinzao, a sprightly 72-year-old who moved with remarkable agility. "Dragon boating keeps me young," he remarked with a smile, admitting to being a dragon boat enthusiast since the village resumed the tradition in 1981. "I participate every year," he added.

Qin explained that this year, the village will send out four dragon boats to visit various locales. On the first and third days of the fifth lunar month, the boats will tour the villages of "Hebei" (north of the Pearl River), while on the second and fourth days, they will visit villages of "Henan" (south of the Pearl River). On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, Yangji's dragon boats will perform a grand parade along the Yangji River.

What gratifies him is that more and more villagers are embracing and participating in dragon boat races, thus preserving this tradition. "Initially, there were only two boats. Later, it increased to four, and now we have six!"

Compared to Qin, 38-year-old Li Baolin is more robust. He has extensive experience in dragon boating. He started training on the boat with adults at the age of nine because there was no age limit back then. He is now a key rower and the captain of one of the boats. In his view, safety and camaraderie are paramount. "As the captain, I must ensure that everyone comes with joy and returns home safely," he said.

Yangji River, part of the Shahe River, was once believed to be 50 meters wide. However, years of silting, low water levels, and urban changes have left Yangji River narrower and with consistently low water levels compared to other central district waterways. Maintaining the dragon boating tradition despite these unfavorable conditions is a source of pride for the people of Yangji.

It is understood that in Yuexiu District, the villages with dragon boat racing customs are Yangji Village in Meihua Village Subdistrict and Siyou Village in Dongshan Subdistrict. Amidst high-rise buildings, the traditional sound of dragon boat drums brings a sense of familiarity to nearby residents. For them, the "landlord sports event" is the best opportunity to experience tradition up close.

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