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Folk arts and festivities - The Dragon Boat Festival

Updated: 2014-12-30 09:43:49

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The dragon boat festival is a totem festival. Falling on the 5th of the fifth lunar month, it is close to the summer solstice. Pestilence, as a result of the heat and dampness, is at its worst, threatening lives of human community. Images of legendary animals and totem animals are pasted on the door or carried along for safeguard. Inevitably, the theme of art works for this festival is awareness of life and safety.

Folk paper-cut the "Eight diagram gourd" to keep evil spirits away on the Dragon Boat Day during the fifth lunar month (Jiaocheng, Shanxi).

Mugworth hanging on the door of every household on the Dragon Boat Day (Songtao, Guizhou).

Chinese mugwort was considered a magic herbal medicine to cure heat and damp related disease in ancient time. As a result, Mugwort became a legendary panacea to idol. According to the Chinese local chronicles, "Use cattail on the Dragon Boat Day and insert mugwort at the door side prevent bad luck and get rid of illness", and "paste cattail and mugwort paper cow on the door on The Dragon Boat Day keeps sickness away." In the fifth Lunar month, every household started hanging red ornaments, putting out cattail dragon or mugwort tiger, and decorating windows with auspicious red paper toad. Young girls cut out letter "Fu" in layers for good luck; and small kids wore bright red toad made of broomcorn, garlic, and other plants to ease the heat of the summer and keep off disease. These customs are still widely practiced today as folk festivities on the Dragon Boat Day.

The Dragon Boat Festival for the people in northern Guizhou was to make totem dog with mugwort and hang it on lintels. It would be kept their till the following year, and then added more mugwort to it. It grew bigger every year to over 2 meters long. Both Han and Miao nationalities followed the same custom. If a kid got sick, they would take some mugwort from the dog's tail and boiled it in water as medicine, which would rid of pestilence. Shaanxi, a tiger totem area, people hanged mugwort tiger on the lintel. Nowadays, it has changed to using stuffed "mugwort tiger" made in fabric and stuffed with dried mugwort incense. Stuffed tiger is sewed on children's clothes on the Dragon Boat Day for safeguard. Its lovely puffy shape gained the name of "Ai tiger/' some kids wear a stuffed tiger and a rooster on each shoulder as a local saying goes: "The rooster holds you in the mouth, and the cat (tiger) watches over you."

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