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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 10:40, May 21, 2004
Whose Dragon Boat Festival?
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For traditional Asian culture facing same modernization challenge, China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are both only one of the representatives, perhaps in the process of breaking through an encirclement, Dragon Boat Festival [Duan Wu] (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month) will become a shared cultural heritage in the East Asian cultural circle.

No matter whether or not the ROK applies for making Dragon Boat Festival a world cultural heritage for its own country, the topic of China's traditional national culture has once again aroused the Chinese people's attention, the ROK which is also in the same cultural circle has many things that are worthwhile for China to use as reference.

"Duan Wu as a cultural heritage" in S. Koreans' eyes
Reporter Zhang Li of the International Herald Leader stationed in Seoul reported: the news about the ROK prepared to apply for making the Dragon Boat Festival a world cultural heritage has touched off divergent opinions, then what does S. Korean Dragon Boat Festival look like? To what degree has the ROK application work proceeded? And how do S. Koreans view China's "defense of Dragon Boat Festival"?

"Jiang Ling Duan Wu Memorial Rites" applied for status as cultural heritage to boost local economy
Dragon Boat Festival, Spring Festival and Mid-autumn Festival together are the three major festivals of the ROK, Duan Wu Festival is quite popular in the eastern areas centered on Jiang Ling. There are records on the customs of spending the Dragon Boat Festival in ancient South Korean books: "The Annals of Wei" and

The Classic of ROK" which recorded ancient customs and habits.It is said that the "Jiang Ling Duan Wu Memorial Rites" has a history of more than 100 years and currently has been formed into a complete set of comprehensive activity system featuring the folk customs of the ROK, the procedures encompass "brewing nectar", "worshipping mountain god", "felling god trees", "memorial rites of welcoming gods", "sorcery of Duan Wu", and "memorial rites of seeing off gods" as well as various other activities of offering sacrifices to gods. A special official is assigned to preside over these activities.

Besides sacrificial activities, there are also swing, wrestling, masque, the pleasure of farmers, folk songs and many other folk customs, games and cultural activities. In addition, the Duan Wu memorial rites also include "disorderly sites", i.e., large markets and sites where performances regarding folk customs are staged. Because the "disorderly sites" can attract large groups of people to come for sightseeing and consumption, they are therefore regarded as one of the most important factors in applying for the status of ��Jiang Ling Duan Wu Memorial Rites" as a world cultural heritage.

At present, large-scale Jiang Ling sightseeing folk customs festival, centered on the "Jiang Ling Duan Wu Memorial Rites", is held by Jiang Ling City every year, which invites theatrical troupes and personages in the cultural circle from various countries to come to participate in the activity. In recent years, the city has invested more than 10 billion won in building a "Duan Wu Village" on the 6,000 -sq. m. land vacated by dismantling residents' sports grounds, its aim is to preserve and publicize this "invisible culture-related finance", create an atmosphere of applying for the status of world cultural heritage and finally boosting the Jiang Ling regional economy.

The Jiang Ling "Duan Wu Memorial Rites" of the ROK was designated as the country's "important invisible culture-related finance" in 1967. In early 2003, the Culture Finance Department of the ROK decided to report the country's No.13 "important invisible culture finance" to the UNESCO, applying for it the status as a cultural heritage. It is reported that currently the ROK has ancestral temple memorial ceremony, sacrificial rite music and traditional comic dialog, which have been granted the status as world cultural heritages by the UNESCO. Currently the S. Korean government and Jiang Ling City authority have produced propaganda trailers of 10 minutes and two hours in length respectively, a 150-page application document as well as photos and other materials, applying for the status of "Jiang Ling Duan Wu Memorial Rites" as world cultural heritages, the preparatory work of application is now drawing to an end, they are prepared to formally file an application with the UNESCO in September this year. It is reported that UNESTCO will finally decide in July 2005 on whether S. Korea's "Jiang Ling Duan Wu Memorial Ritres" will be granted the status as world cultural heritage.

S. Koreans' reaction to China's "defense of Duan Wu"
After Chinese media reported the news about the ROK ready to apply for the staus of Dragon Boat Festival as a world cultural heritage, ROK media gave rapid reaction. Chosun Iibo of the ROK published a commentary saying that although Dragon Boat Festival originated in the story about Qu Yuan in the Chu State of China, the ROK and Japan had designated Duan Wu as festival long ago. S. Korea's "Jiang Ling Duan Wu Memorial Rites" brought together dozens of sacrificial rites and folk customs and games, making them rich and grand farming cultural celebrations which have attracted world attention, that's why the ROK decided to apply for their status as world cultural heritages.

In the opinions of S. Korean scholars, the Dragon Boat Festivals of the ROK and China differ vastly. China's Dragon Boat Festival contains Dragon Boats offering sacrificial to Qu Yuan, while Jiang Ling, though located by the seaside, doesn't contain this activity. S. Korea's Duan Wu Festival contains the activity of worshipping regional renowned figures as patron saints. These scholars pointed out that at the Asia International Folk Customs Symposium in 1997 and the 2002 Seminar concerning the Drgon Boat Festival held by S. Korean, Chinese and Japanese scholars, Chinese scholars acknowledged that Jiang Ling's Duan Wu customs are different from that of China's.

According to a ROK media report, Liang Ling City and Jiang Ling Cultural Academy will take the disputes sparked by Dragon Boat Festival as an opportunity for them to publicize the actual conditions of Jiang Ling Duan Wu Memorial Rites to the International community and are ready to gather together experts, professors and other scholars to jointly study and explore countermeasures.

By People's Daily Online

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