Elements of Intangible Cultural Heritage

    Tung Ng (Dragon Boat Festival)





    Introduction:

    The Tung Ng (Dragon Boat Festival) is part of Macao’s traditions, being celebrated on the 5th day of the fifth lunar month. Legends about the origin of the festival vary. Traditionally, this event takes place in the summer to ward off diseases and evil spirits and worship the dragon, noting that this celebration has also gradually evolved to also commemorate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan. During the Tung Ng (Dragon Boat Festival), local residents hang wormwood, absinth and calamus to expel pest and cook bean soups to provide relieve from the summer heat. Other activities include Dragon Boat Racing, the consumption of zongzi (rice dumplings), swimming activities, and hanging calamus and wormwood leaves. Among these, the Dragon Boat Racing and the consumption of zongzi are the most popular in Macao. Shops and households wrap different types of rice dumplings during the festival, such as salted pork rice dumplings, Cantonese-style steamed rice dumplings and rice dumplings wrapped in pandanus leaves. In May, when the water level in the Pearl River estuary is high and the salinity of the water decreases, local residents like to swim offshore, hence the tradition of “Dragon Boat Festival Swimming” which is considered a healthy activity.

     

    Conservation Status:

    The Tung Ng (Dragon Boat Festival) is a public holiday in Macao. Dragon Boat Racing, the consumption of zongzi and the swimming activities are traditional customs that are greatly valued by local residents. During the Tung Ng (Dragon Boat Festival), the air in Macao is filled with the scent of zongzi rice dumplings, with special rice dumplings available for sale from many local restaurants. On their part, the Dragon Boat Racing has gradually evolved into a larger scale formal competition event. It is now a major annual sporting event. The tradition of the swimming activities have also expanded since the 20th century, when it took the form of free swimming in the outer harbor area. Various legends, stories and proverbs also abound about the customs of the Tung Ng (Dragon Boat Festival).

     

    Heritage Value:

    The Tung Ng (Dragon Boat Festival) is one of the typical traditions of Macao, also being significant because of its long-standing history and because ot its value in the context of the Chinese community and the traditional Chinese culture of Macao. The customs integrate local characteristics and they have significant value for the study of local folk culture. The customs of this festival also show the affectionate feelings of the local Chinese community of Macao, in regard for their cultural roots and patriotic feelings.


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