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14th Litchi Bay folk culture festival kicks off with dragon boat celebrations

The 14th annual "Litchi Bay New Xiguan" folk culture festival kicked off at Liwan Lake Park on June 10, the day of the Dragon Boat Festival in 2024. Early in the morning, Pantang villagers marched with gongs to Renwei Ancestral Temple for a blessing ceremony, praying for safe and successful dragon boat festivities.

The long-standing tradition of the Yanbu and Pantang dragon boats has a history of 427 years, dating back to 1597 during the 25th year of the Ming Dynasty's Wanli period. These dragon boats traverse the Huadi River for mutual visits. They are warmly welcomed by the villages along the river.

Today, a grand "brotherhood visit" at Liwan Lake drew a crowd to the vibrant scene. The spirited Pantang dragon boat was joined by 16 teams from Yanbu New Town, Kengkou, Chajiao, and Zhicun. The sight of these majestic dragon boats parading on Liwan Lake symbolized the strong friendship between Guangzhou and Foshan, while also celebrating the preservation and promotion of the traditional culture.

A ceremony to honor the 592-year-old Yanbu dragon boat

The story of the Yanbu "Godfather" Dragon Boat and the Pantang "Godson" Dragon Boat is deeply ingrained in local lore. The flower-pinning and red silk ceremony held at Wuxiu Dock in Liwan Lake is a traditional welcome for the 592-year-old Yanbu Dragon Boat, symbolizing the highest honor.

During the ceremony, the villagers of Pantang adorned the Yanbu dragon boat with sacred flowers and red silk, symbolizing good fortune and respect. They also presented gifts of Xiangyun silk banners, rice wine, and local specialties such as water chestnut powder and water caltrop. In return, the Yanbu dragon boat displayed the gifted Xiangyun silk banner at its bow, expressing its gratitude to the Pantang villagers.

After the flower-pinning ceremony, the Pantang "Godson" dragon boat escorted the Yanbu "Godfather" dragon boat around Liwan Lake. Villagers onshore bowed in welcome. Drums thundered, and firecrackers echoed. The event reached its climax.

Liwan held a spectacular opening ceremony on water, displaying tradition and modernity

The opening ceremony of the event offered a high-caliber cultural feast. It featured a breathtaking shoulder ballet performance, with the female dancers gracefully performing on the shoulders, hands, and heads of the male dancers to beautiful music.

The Guangzhou Song and Dance Theatre also presented the magnificent original musical "Miss Xiguan", showcasing a seamless blend of modern art and traditional culture.

Traditional activities like throwing rice dumplings for blessings, presenting flags to dragon boat representatives, distributing Pantang’s Five Beauties, and scattering dragon eggs (long zong) encapsulated the collective memory of the old Guangzhou Dragon Boat Festival traditions. Catching a "dragon egg" was believed to bring good luck, and umbrellas held upside down to catch more dragon eggs created a festive and lively scene.

The highlight of the festival was the performance of the unique Guizhou folk art—single bamboo drifting. Performers skillfully balanced on a single bamboo log, gliding effortlessly on the water, astonishing the audience.

Dragon Boat Banquet: A Culinary and Cultural Celebration

The Dragon Boat Banquet, integral to the Dragon Boat Festival, symbolizes vigor and smooth sailing. This meal, steeped in tradition, is characterized by its emphasis on good omens and its authentic, rustic flavors.

The Pantang Dragon Boat Banquet featured traditional dishes like white-cut chicken, crispy roast pork, roast goose, mushroom and black moss soup, and fish maw soup. Unique dishes such as red water chestnut braised pork belly and Dragon Boat Ding highlighted the local culinary heritage.

The event not only celebrated the rich traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival but also reinforced the enduring cultural bonds between communities, offering a vibrant display of heritage and unity.

Reporter | Clarice

Editor | Olivia, Abby, James

Photo provided to GDToday

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