100-year-old dragon boat water parade takes place in Tai O, Hong Kong

09:21, June 07, 2011      

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The Tai O dragon boat water parade, a religious activity with more than 100 years of history, was held on Monday in Tai O, Lantau Island of Hong Kong to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival.

The Joint Association of Traditional Dragon Boats in Tai O, organizer of the parade, also teamed up with local institutes to hold a field study tailored for secondary school teachers with an aim of promoting this part of Hong Kong's intangible cultural heritage, which has recently been inscribed on the Third National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Hong Kong Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said at the event that the dragon boat water parade in Tai O is not only unique in Hong Kong but also an example of rare living heritage found in southern China.

It is said that Tai O was hit by a plague more than 100 years ago and, in an effort to drive out the epidemic, local fishermen paraded along the local waterways on dragon boats, towing behind them deity statues that they had borrowed from temples in the area. The plague ended, but the custom, known as the dragon boat water parade, has been maintained to this day.

"This activity has become a community-wide event that plays a key role in sustaining neighborhood relationships, making it valuable intangible cultural heritage in Hong Kong," Tsang said.

The Tai O dragon boat water parade falls within the category of "social practices, rituals and festive events" defined by the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage promulgated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In view of its significant historical, social and cultural value, it is one of the four local items nominated for inscription on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage -- the first time Hong Kong has applied to the Ministry of Culture (MoC) for such recognition.

Tsang also noted that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government recognizes the importance of preserving intangible cultural heritage and has been paying great effort to enhancing public knowledge and recognition of the importance of preserving such cultural resources.

The government has adopted a multi-pronged approach in implementing the safeguarding measures, which cover in-depth research, education, promotion, application for inscription and transmission.

The Hong Kong's Home Affairs Bureau submitted to the MoC in September, 2009 an application for the Tai O dragon boat water parade, the Cheung Chau Jiao Festival, the Yu Lan Ghost Festival of the Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community and the Tai Hang fire dragon dance to be inscribed on the Third National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The bureau announced last Friday that these four items had been successfully inscribed onto the list.

Source: Xinhua

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