"Deities' Parade" during Dragon Boat Festival in Tai O, Lantau Island: Service-learning Experience of Conserving "Intangible Cultural Heritage"

The South China Research Centre has been actively involved in studying community culture and history and promoting heritage education. By introducing a community service program through participation in rituals of the Dragon Boat Festival in Tai O on June 15 and 16, 2010, we hope that the participant students can gain a first-hand experience and understanding of how local society maintains their traditions, or “Intangible Cultural Heritage,” a popular topic in recent years Hong Kong.

Situating at the estuary of the Pearl River Delta with its unique geographical and ecological environment, Tai O was a major port for fishing, salt-making, agricultural and commercial industries. Various ethnic groups intermingled and a local religious system was formed. During the annual Dragon Boat Festival, on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, three fishermen associations, namely Pa Teng, Yu Yip-hueng and Hap San Tong, conduct their "Deities' Parade" ritual. The day before the festival, members of the fishermen associations row their dragon boats to visit the four main temples, Yeung Hau, San Tsuen Tin Hou, Kwan Tei and Hung Shing, to carry the traveling deity images, which represent Tai O’s four patron deities, to their associations. During the day of the festival, the traveling deity images are put on the "sacred sampans," towed by the respective dragon boats, to parade Tai O's water areas to pacify the wandering water ghosts. Residents of stilted houses along the water-courses burn paper offerings while the dragon boats pass. The fishermen associations hold banquets to celebrate the festival in the evening.

We would like to recruit 30 volunteers to join such a meaningful service and learning activity. Participants are required to assist the local religious activities, moving and rowing dragon boats, etc. Participants may choose to stay overnight in stilted houses to experience the local festival celebrations.

Date: June 15 & 16, 2010 (Tuesday & Wednesday)
Participants can join either June 15 or 16 but priority will be given to those who choose to participate in two days; all participants are required to attend a lecture on the background of the festival and a training session on dragon boat rowing (details will be given later).
Venue: Tai O, Lantau Island
Fee: HK$200 (operating expenses)
Application Deadline: May 21, 2010
Enquiries: 2358 7778
Organizers: South China Research Center, HKUST & Joint Association of Traditional Dragon-Boats in Tai O, Hong Kong

Remarks: Participants should consider whether their physical condition is suitable for this two-day outdoor activity. Please wear sportswear and prepare your sleeping bag, sunblock product, raincoat and drinking water. Only swimmers are allowed to row the dragon boats.