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Published: April 24th 2007
A close-up of the figurehead of one of the magnificent larger boats
Despite being in China for over a year, I had yet to experience one of the local festivals in my “home” region of Taizhou. Consequently I was very keen to attend the now internationally famous Qintong Boating Festival.
The Qintong Boating Festival is held during Qingming Festival (around April 4-6) every year. The Qingming Festival (Clear and Bright Festival or Pure Brightness Festival) denotes a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime and also to tend to the graves of departed ones. Consequently a common English translation is Tomb Sweeping Day. However tomb-sweeping is definitely not on the agenda of this particular series of events.
Last year I missed the opportunity to attend the reportedly most spectacular event in the festival, the opening ceremony, due to the fact that it was held on a teaching day. This year, however, either by luck or design, the opening ceremony was held on a Saturday. I was not going to miss out this time! Arthur was just as keen as he had not attended this festival before, despite having lived in Taizhou for many years. Stef was similarly excited, but unfortunately Hans had made previous arrangements,
Three Wise Men
Each boating team represented
their local area. It was great to see people of all ages participating.
so was away for the weekend in Suzhou. There’s always next year!
Saturday dawned warm and hazy and joining us were a couple of headteachers and their children from local primary schools. It took about 30 minutes or so to reach our destination Qi Hu (Lake) Wetland Reserve. We had visited this new scenic area last October at the invitation of the City of Taizhou, but this was to be a very different experience! Our October visit will be the subject of the next blog so you can get a feel for the usually peaceful surroundings.
Although Qi Hu (Lake) Wetland Reserve was opened only three years ago, the Qintong Boating Festival itself has a long history dating back to the Ming Dynasty. It is rapidly becoming an important tourist destination for international as well as domestic visitors to Eastern China. In fact the whole event is now used by the city government as a platform to not only attract tourists but also foreign investments. It was rather amusing for us to see tour buses loaded with “foreigners” at this small countryside location. The most “white faces” I’ve seen since I left Oz!
The place was absolutely
The Crew at Qintong
Here our group makes up a tiny part of the milling crowd prior on the road leading to the entrance of Qin Hu Wetland Reserve
packed to the rafters, that is if it wasn’t held in the open! Traffic was chaotic with police trying to monitor “authorized” vehicles (those who had paid for the privilege of a pass), scooters, bicycles, pedestrians and all manner of contraptions filled with locals. When we finally made our way through the entrance it was obvious that many people had arrived very early in order to choose a prime position. Initially it was a little disappointing as it was difficult, even with my height advantage, to see anything at all. Stef had no chance! That is until some lovely locals spotted us and pushed us right to the front. Bless them! It was very muddy, but the view was great so we weren’t complaining!
The scene before us was spectacular. Innumerable boats big and small from nearby villages and towns had converged on Xique (part of Qi Lake) Lake for a few days of rejoicing, competitions and performances. After what seemed an eternity, there was a relatively brief welcome speech, some of it surprisingly in English. Then the event really got under way with the inevitable fireworks and balloons being released to fill the hazy air with colour.
Stef at the Entrance to Qin Lake Wetland Park
Thousands of locals and visitors from elsewhere descended on the Qin Lake Wetland Reserve to experience the spectacular annual boating festival.
The big dragon boats had theatrical performances, dragon and lion dances and other folk dances staged right on board. The smaller boats featured locals in brightly coloured outfits reminiscent of an earlier time. Many of them, particularly the ones crewed by men, used poles not paddles for propulsion with the occupants standing, not sitting. Hard work, to be sure! The races between these boats are supposedly a spectacular sight and a highlight of the whole festival. Unfortunately I found out that these races occur later in the festival and we would not be privileged to experience them this time. A mental note for next year!
So read on and experience with me a unique local festival, the Qintong Boating Festival.
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