The 2012 Capital City Dragon Boat race is rapidly approaching, but before setting sail, all Dragon Boat Races must ‘Awaken’ their dragons. The ceremony isn’t your typical ceremony in the sense that it is quiet and calm. The dragon’s eyes must be opened and all evil warded off!
The Awakening the Dragon cermeony for CCDBR will take place at dusk, Saturday, September 1, 2012. Spectators for the ceremony will be the first to see the boats, painted in immaculate detail. The ceremony, in respect to Chinese custom, will open the dragon’s eyes, ward off evil spirits and prepare the Grand River for competition. The ceremony not only blesses and cleanses the area for competition, but also the spectators and competitors.
According to Shelagh Pierce, dragon boat racing came at a time when “A time when superstition determined how a person lived. In fact, dragon boat racing began more than 2000 years ago when a group of superstitious people believed that the boat racing would ensure prosperous and bountiful crops.” The awakening ceremony was originally created to cleanse, but also to honor the death of Ch’u Yuan a Ch’u statesmen. When his advice to the king of Ch’u was rejected and he was exiled, his sorrows lead him to throw his body in the Mi Lo River. The people of the kingdom who loved Ch’u Yuan would float in the river around his body, beating drums and splashing their oars to keep fish and water dragons from him.
Dragon boat racing made its way into Chinese tradition with some extreme rituals, such as drowning a person in sacrifice or capsizing a boat. Thankfully, many of these rituals have been removed over the years and the ceremony has evolved into something entertaining. Though much has changed in the years since Ch’u Yuan’s death in 4 B.C, the CCDBR will honor the custom in their own style at dusk the night before the races.
Those attending the Michigan Mosaic Music Festival can walk across the bridge to the ceremony and enjoy the festivities. Racing will commence the following morning, Sunday, September 2, at 8 AM until the bracket has been completed.