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Dragon Boat Race on A Tang Canal, Wenzhou, 1930s
12019-11-18T17:25:06-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f357Dragon boat race on a tang canal, Wenzhou, 1930splain2021-08-13T04:32:29-04:001930sUsed with permission.Weiting GuoWG-0025Weiting Guo08b125beef921c47ad1de3c337b8d14abd2713ab
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12019-11-18T17:25:06-05:00Racing through Water20plain433512021-08-12T06:50:35-04:0027.9994, 120.6668WenzhouWeiting GuoQu YuanZhang GangDragon Boat Festival
In Wenzhou, for example, this festival was not solely for the commemoration of Qu Yuan. It was linked with various sections in local society, and was also used as an instrument for conflicts and competition. As historian Roger Shih-chieh Lo persuasively argues, dragon boat races in Wenzhou–with varied origins, forms, and beliefs—have constantly been used for distributing social, cultural, and political resources. Local people usually used these races as an opportunity to show their opinions, and hence were involved in behind-the-scene conflicts and negotiations at their races and festivals (Lo 2019).
Moreover, while the races had constantly been regarded as an arena for competition, they were also related to one of the most important elements of Wenzhou society—namely, water. The canals and rivers were not only used for irrigation, flood drainage, and transportation, they were also used as boundaries between lands and as routes connecting villages with shared interests. These waterways could be the causes of disputes regarding the use of waters and lands; they could also serve as the site for resolving disputes or reshaping social relationships. In either case, dragon boat races have served as a useful instrument for local communities to connect, contest, or negotiate with one another.
In the following sections, I will use Zhang Gang's experiences to discuss how dragon boat racing became an integral part of daily life in Wenzhou. I will also use these cases to analyze how such races shaped the ways people interacted with water—especially the rivers and canals where the races were performed—and constructed a space for negotiating resources and communal affairs in people's daily life.