The Dragon Boat Festival of Miao tribe commemorates a hero who killed a dragon and it is held on the 25th to 27th day of 5th month in lunar calendar. Whereas the Dragon Boat Festival of Chinese commemorates Qu Yuan and it is held on the 5th day of 5th month in lunar calendar. They are totally different in history and activities of the festival.
The festival has its origins in Shidong and it celebrates there every year too. The dragon boat of Miao tribe is very different and special. It’s a very long canoe with another smaller canoe tight together. First day of the festival is praying and boat launching ceremonies. Second day is the day for friends and relatives to send gifts. Third day is the dragon boat competition day.
According to the locals, the activities and venues are the same each year. However, it’s better to ask the local in case there is a change as the activities can be held at different places. When I was in Shidong last year, the activities were scheduled as follows:
First day: At riverside nearby the wet market, they have the praying and boat launching ceremonies. At evening time, the drumming, dancing, and singing performance start at Tanglong village within the Shidong township. The performance is done by the villagers themselves. As compared to the commercialized performance, this is much more fun and traditional. There are also people come here to learn and study the traditional dance of Miao tribe. No matter old or young, they will dress up and wait to be there to perform. Due to too many people waiting to perform, the individual performance has to be interrupted and discontinued if it’s not attractive. Although most of the performances have to be interrupted so as to give opportunity to all ladies to perform, the entire performance activities still have to continue until 2am only can reach to the end.
Second Day: There is a bridge at the main street in Laotun. Under the bridge, that’s the place where dragon boats are gathering. About 2pm, dragon boats from different villages start to gather here and wait for their friends and families to send gifts. The gifts will then hang on the boat until it is full of gifts. Then, they will paddle back to their villages to remove the gifts and paddle to Laotun again to let other friends and families to send gifts. They repeat this for several rounds until 6pm. At the same time, the dancing and singing performance by the villagers start in evening too. However, the venue has changed from Shidong to Yangjiazhai.
Third day: At 2pm, all dragon boats from different villages gather at Shidong riverside. At 3pm, the dragon boat competition only starts.
Previous post has mentioned about how to go to Shidong
If you are not driving or renting a car, you can take the local shuttle van go to and back from Laotun. During the festival, it has a lot of shuttle van, so just wave your hand to get in, CNY5 one-way. Of course, you can hop on the local bus that goes to Taijiang or Kaili as it passes by Laotun, also RMB5 to reach Laotun.
Previous post has mentioned about the accommodation in Shidong
Can visit the local house to eat, but if you are in a group of people, then it’s better to pay for the food. The local people are very friendly and like to treat the visitors with homemade rice wine. The taste of the rice wine is very nice and it’s a must-try item in Laotun.
As the room is too dark, the local lady usually make up at the doorway. Get the permission before you shoot photo.
The local people are not camera shy. But if possible, please send them the picture as they will appreciate you for it. Therefore, please get the address and phone number from them after the photo session. The phone number is very important as it’s the key for them to receive the picture. This is due to the houses don’t have any house number, so the postman needs to call them up to get the letter/ picture.
Recommend to wear shorts and slippers to take pictures at riverside. Also, bring along a plastic bag or camera rain coat to wrap your camera (especially the expensive DSLR and lens) as protection, because the air is full of debris from firecrackers.