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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Question of culture

Question of culture
Date: 2004-05-18 00:00:00
Topic: Front Page
http://www.21stcentury.com.cn/print.php?sid=13630


FOR Chinese, it's a time for dragon boat racing and Zongzi. But across the Yellow Sea in Gangneung, South Korea, wrestling and swing play are the highlights. However, both events go by the same name ¡ª the Dragon Boat Festival ¡ª which falls on May 5 of the lunar calendar...



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FOR Chinese, it's a time for dragon boat racing and Zongzi (ôÕ×Ó). But across the Yellow Sea in Gangneung (½­Áê), South Korea, wrestling (ˤõÓ) and swing play are the highlights. However, both events go by the same name ¡ª the Dragon Boat Festival (¶ËÎç½Ú) ¡ª which falls on May 5 of the lunar calendar.

One festival, two cultures: does one nation have the right to call it its own? It has been reported that South Korea will apply (ÉêÇë) to the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO ÁªºÏ¹ú½Ì¿ÆÎÄ×éÖ¯) to make the celebration in Gangneung an intangible (·ÇÎïÖʵÄ) part its cultural heritage (ÎÄ»¯ÒŲú). If successful, people from other countries may see the Dragon Festival as a Korean creation.

As the birthplace of the yearly event more than 2,000 years ago, China is not happy with the situation. "It would be a shame if another country successfully made a traditional Chinese festival part of its own cultural heritage ahead of China," said Zhou Heping, deputy culture minister. The Ministry of Culture is even thinking of making its own application to UNESCO, covering all traditional Chinese festivals, including the Dragon Boat event.

"I don't like some of the food eaten at the festival, but I am shocked by South Korea's move," said Jin Yutong, a Senior 1 student at Xi'an Senior High School. "We should better protect the cultural heritage left to us by our ancestors."

It is thought that the festival is held in memory of the great poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), who lived in the State of Chu during the Warring States Period (Õ½¹úʱÆÚ). Qu was known to be a patriot (°®¹úÕß) and admired by ordinary people.

He is said to have jumped into Miluo River, because he had lost hope in his country's future. When people heard about Qu's death, they sailed up and down the river searching for his body. They also beat the drums to frighten away fish and threw Zongzi into water. These were supposed to stop the fish touching Qu. Dragon boat racing is said to come from this search for the poet's body.

Over the years, the Dragon Boat Festival has spread throughout the world. In Japan and Viet Nam, as well as South Korea, the festival has mixed with and become part of local culture.

With this in mind, some experts say that it is meaningless to argue about which country the festival belongs to. "No one can deny that it came from China," said Long Haiqing, an expert from Hunan Province. "But if all the countries involved can protect culture heritage together, they will all benefit."

Working to protect tradition

According to UNESCO, intangible cultural heritage is represented in five ways: oral traditions and expressions, including language; performing arts; social practices, rituals (ÒÇʽ) and festivals; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and traditional craftsmanship (ÊÖ¹¤ÒÕ).
"The Dragon Boat Festival, with its boat racing and eating Zongzi have been part of China's cultural heritage for more than 2,000 years." said Professor Wu Bingan of Liaoning University.



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