The Canoe Dragon Boat Festival

Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum

The Canoe Dragon Boat Festival

by Live in Guizhou

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The Canoe Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated by the Miao ethnic group in Guizhou Province, is a vibrant and culturally rich event, deeply rooted in Miao traditions. This festival is an ancient tradition of the Miao people, passed down through generations in the Qingshui River Basin and Taijiang River Basin. Its origin is linked to a Miao legend about dragon-slaying. In 2008, it was recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage, underscoring its importance to Chinese cultural history.

The festival takes place annually, from the 24th to the 27th day of the fifth month of the traditional Chinese calendar. During this time, the Miao people celebrate with great joy, engaging in unique single-log dragon boat competitions on the Qingshui River. These events attract both domestic and foreign tourists who come to witness the festivities.

The Miao’s version of dragon boating is characterized by paddlers standing in the boats, which differ from the traditional style of the Han ethnic group. The dragon boats are about 24 to 27 meters long and weigh around three to four tons. They are made from three trimmed tree trunks, usually large fir trees. The dragon head on each boat is designed in the distinctive Miao style, and crew members often wear traditional Miao hats and clothing during the races.

In Miao culture, the drum symbolizes the clan or tribe. A significant part of the dragon boat race is the selection of a clan leader, known as the “drum master,” generally an elder with strong organizational and leadership skills. This individual plays a crucial role in the festival’s proceedings.

The Canoe Dragon Boat Festival represents a fascinating blend of ancient customs, community spirit, and vibrant cultural expressions, making it an integral part of Miao heritage and an exciting event for visitors to experience.