Last modified: 2005-04-02 by
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I saw on French-German TV channel Arte a documentary on the so-called dragon races in Southern China. These very ancient nautical races take place on the 5th day of the 5th month of the moon calendar. The races are supposed to celebrate the memory of a minister who committed suicide by drowning in 278 BC to protest against corruption. The fishers went on the river and threw in the waters so that the river dragons did not eat the minister's body. Races are proven to have started long before the historical event, and are associated with the rise of the water level during the 5th moon month. 70 rowers (plus 1 drummer and 1 gong player) representing their village sit in very long wooden ships with dragon head at poop. In the middle of the ship is hoisted what was described as the "village standard", a monocoloured triangular flag with Chinese character in a contrasting colour (e.g. red on yellow) and with the "tails" characteristic of ancient Chinese flags. At stern are hoisted two identical triangular flags, apparently monocoloured with a contrasting border except along the hoist (e.g. white with red border, pink with green border). Before the race, all ships paraded with bunches of coloured triangular flags.
Ivan Sache, 4 October 2000