ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “tradition

DRAGON BOAT WATER PARADE (龍舟遊涌), Tai O (大澳), Hong Kong

Under the scotching sun in the summer morning of Dragon Boat Festival (端午節), former villagers and outside visitors gather along the the narrow waterways and mangrove channels of Tai O to take part in the annual Dragon Boat Water Parade and Race.  The sleepy and somewhat touristy fishing village once again fills with laughter and rhythmic drum beats, reminding elder villagers how vibrant Tai O fishing village used to be decades ago.  Now a popular sporting and recreational event that held in many cities around the world, dragon boat is actually originated right here, from the fishing communities in the Pearl River Delta where Hong Kong is located.

In the old days, young men in fishing communities in the region, like Tai O, would volunteer to join the Dragon Boat Festival.  While most would enter the boat race, a small group would participate in the religious parade, in which small statues of local deities are brought out from temples and paraded around the village in decorated dragon boats.  The dragon ritual is meant to cast away evil spirits in the village with heavy drum beats, synchronized paddling, and incense smoke.  Unlike modern dragon boats made of lightweight materials such as fiberglass or carbon fiber, traditional dragon boats are constructed using teak wood.  Each 65-ft boat takes 32 paddlers, 2 drummers, 1 gong striker, and 1 steerer.   During the Dragon Boat Festival, modern dragon boat races are held in rivers, beaches and the harbour allover Hong Kong.  Yet to get a taste of century-old dragon boat tradition, there is no better place than Tai O, where old rituals are still performed every year.

DSC_3802After an hour of ferry and 40 minutes of bus, we finally arrived at Tai O where the Dragon Boat Water Parade was about to begin at 10am.  Organizers were busy putting on the last bits of decorations onto the traditional dragon boats.

DSC_3837Flanked both sides by old stilt houses, the main waterways of Tai O provide the best setting for the dragon boat parade.

DSC_3865Decorated deity boat was always led by a long traditional dragon boat.

DSC_3872The Tai Chung Bridge opened up only in the Dragon Boat Festival for the passing deity boats.

DSC_3892The busy Tai Chung Bridge often serves as the visual focus of the entire fishing village of Tai O.

DSC_3987Despite the annual parade, fishermen were still selling fresh seafood right by the waterfront.

DSC_4030Statues of deity from three different temples were brought out for the parade.

DSC_4055Behind the designated dragon boat, the colourful deity boat was led around the waterway network.

DSC_4065Many paddlers of the traditional dragon boats came from the older generation of the local Tai O villagers.

DSC_4112The river mouth served as the main venue for dragon boat races.

DSC_4124Larger fishing boats served as the base of different racing teams.

DSC_4134It was fun to watch the dragon boat race from the spectator jetty at the waterfront.

DSC_4159All paddlers gave their best effort during the dragon boat race.

DSC_4176One of the most important aspect of dragon boat paddling is the quality of their synchronized movements.

DSC_4186The exciting shouts of loyal supporters offers outside visitors a glimpse of the community spirit of Tai O.

DSC_4207At the end, an award ceremony was held at the spectator area.

DSC_4250While the dragon boat race captivated the hearts of spectators at the river mouth, the deity boats and traditional dragon boats continued to parade around Tai O’s waterways.

DSC_4221At around noontime, the dragon boat parade was coming to an end.

DSC_4225Wooden dragon boats were once again put into storage along the waterways.

DSC_4212Until next year’s Dragon Boat Festival, visitors coming to Tai O can visit the small community museum to learn more about the traditions of dragon boat.

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PARADE OF FLOATS (飄色), Cheung Chau Bun Festival (長洲太平清醮), Hong Kong

In less than an hour of ferry from the commercial centre of Hong Kong lies the island of Cheung Chau, home to a former fishing community, a legendary pirate treasure trove, dozens of seafood restaurants, and the biggest annual Taoist Dajiao (打醮) festivals in Hong Kong, the Bun Festival (太平清醮).  Originated from a series of religious rituals seeking for protection from local deities after a plague broke out in the 19th century, the Bun Festival held annually on Buddha’s Birthday has been simplified and evolved into one of Hong Kong’s most famous intangible cultural heritage events, along with Tai Hang’s Fire Dragon Festival, Tai O Dragon Boat Water Parade, etc.

In 2014, I came to Cheung Chau during the Bun Festival to watch the Bun Snatching Race at night.  This time, we arrived at Cheung Chau during the day to watch the afternoon parade.  Known as the Parade of Floats (飄色), the parade included a combination of religious statues of deities, lion and qilin (麒麟) dances, and children dressed in costumes raised in mid air.

DSC_3144The parade began at Pak Tai Temple, the patron god of the fishermen community of Cheung Chau.

DSC_3154In the back lanes we chanced upon a workshop making the festival’s fortune bun.  The workshop owner suggested the plaza where the parade groups would make a turn as ideal spot to watch the parade.

DSC_3208We met a local lady at the plaza and she kindly found us a chair at the front row sitting right beside her.  The first thing that caught our eyes was a qilin dance from one of the street communities on the island.

DSC_3264Basically the parade consisted of groups from different street communities of Cheung Chau.

DSC_3276Small statues of deities were taken out from temples and paraded around the main streets of the island.

DSC_3293Local children were dressed in traditional costumes and gave out souvenirs.

DSC_3301All parading groups were dressed in vivid colours.

DSC_3520.JPGBeautiful banners of the festival are taken out once a year.

DSC_3341Known as Parade of Floats (飄色), selected children are dressed in different costumes and raised with hidden metal supports.  Along with the ones in traditional costumes, each year some children would dress in costumes related to contemporary trends or current affairs.

DSC_3496This year, two were dressed like the chief executive of Hong Kong, one as Theresa May, one Buddha, one Super Mario, a group of characters from Jin Yong (金庸)’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber (倚天屠龍記), etc.

IMG_7595A girl dressed in costume related to a historical TV series.

IMG_7600Another girl dressed as the chief executive of Hong Kong.

IMG_7621Two children dressed like a traditional princess.

IMG_7642Another one dressed like Super Mario.

DSC_3516.JPGThough the traditional lion dances on bamboo were even more impressive.

DSC_3565Brave lion dancer performed different moves on tall bamboo poles that were controlled and moved by his other teammates on the ground.

DSC_3578Dancing traditional large flags were also fun to watch.

DSC_3615The parade was a mixture of traditional heritage, current affairs, and community groups.

DSC_3649Parade band dressed in yellow and black performed along the street of Cheung Chau.

DSC_3659Inevitably, buns were used as a parade feature.

DSC_3733After the parade, we met the qilin dance group once again in the side street.

DSC_3748Approaching sunset, we returned to the forecourt in front of Pak Tai Temple.

DSC_3750Similar to 2014, there were three big traditional paper figures in the festival ground.

DSC_3766Some of the paper figures were moved to the waterfront for the burning rituals.

DSC_3761By the sea, offerings and lanterns were placed for all wandering ghosts.


DAY 4 (5/6): NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan, 2016.12.06

In October 2014, we stumbled upon a small shop in the shopping centre Tokyo Midtown.  Utensils, furniture, cloths, and other miscellaneous household items were on display on wooden shelves and stands.  Merchandises were displayed in clusters according to brands from different parts of Japan.  The design of that attractive small shop in the middle of a high-end shopping arcade, according designer Yusuke Seki, was inspired by shotengai (traditional shopping street).  We stayed at the shop for quite some time, and ended up picking up a blue umbrella with a nice wooden handle.  At its underside, there was a small label with an illustration of two deer and a traditional logo saying Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten (中川政七商店).  Later on, we did some online research and realized that Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten originates in Nara, and has been around for three centuries.

Opened in 1716, Nara’s Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten just celebrated its 300th anniversary.  Originally, the small Nara shop produced hand woven textiles for samurai and monk ceremonial robes.  The textile was known as Narazashi, or sarashi bleached hemp textile.  During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the society went through a dramatic change.  Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten was forced to diversify its focus on other products such as table cloths and handkerchief.  Entering the modern age, the shop defied all odds of modernization, persistently remained faithful to its traditional techniques and craftsmanship.  Nakagawa, the 13th president who joined the family business in the last 15 years or so, tested the potentials of his traditional shop to a new level.  Not only did he opened new shops outside of Nara like Tokyo and Osaka, Nakagawa also re-branded the company, and gave new life to old products such as using the old technique of mosquito net making for the new best selling fukin (Japanese style table cloth).  Furthermore, Nakagawa proactively engaged in fruitful collaborations with other craft companies across the country to come up with new brands and merchandises suitable for the contemporary era.

This time around, we were in Nara after a long day of temple hoping.  We promised ourselves that we couldn’t leave the city without visiting the Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店), the flagship store of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten located at a tranquil alleyway near Sanjo Dori.  At one corner of the shop, several merchandises commemorating the 300th anniversary of Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten were on display.  A beige cloth with beautiful embroidery was a reproduction of their 1925 product exhibited at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, the design world fair that gave birth to Art Deco.   90 years on, Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten is still standing at the crossroad between the old and new, advocating a good mix of traditional crafts and contemporary aesthetics.  At their 300th anniversary, their locally made fabrics and household merchandises are as cool and modern as ever.

15The subtle wooden machiya (町屋) facade of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop provides a perfect fit for the shop that advocates high quality local crafts and products.

14The design of Yu Nakagawa is a comfortable blend of traditional and contemporary elements.

dsc_3595The signage of Yu Nakagawa Main Shop (遊中川本店) with the iconic deer symbolizing the city of Nara.

dsc_3602Rows of colourful textiles behind the cashier counter attracted our attention right from the beginning.

16Cloths, bags, paper products, socks, scarfs, utensils, etc were on display in the pleasant interior.

dsc_3599Most items on display came from their own brands, such as 2&9, their line of well made socks.

dsc_3605It was already dark by the time we left Yu Nakagawa Main Shop.

17Before we left Nara, we also stopped by Nipponichi (日本市) at Sanjo Dori.  Nipponichi is also a brand from Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten focused on selling Japanese made souvenirs.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China

As the eastern terminus of the former Silk Road, Changan (now Xian) of the Tang Dynasty was a melting pot of different cultures and religions.  A number of Middle Eastern and Central Asian religions entered China during that time, some of which had survived and remained strong even today.  Dated back to many centuries, Xian’s Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque revealed an interesting cultural fusion that is not commonly seen in other parts of China.  Xian’s Great Mosque is the largest mosque in China.  The buildings in the traditional courtyard complex were mainly constructed in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644).  Earlier religious complexes, Tanmingsi and Huihui Wanshansi, were established on the same site dated as far back as the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).  

Our taxi dropped us off at one end of the Muslim Quarter, where we began our brief meandering through the crowded Muslim market streets and alleyways before reaching the Great Mosque.  From the first glance, the mosque looked very similar to a traditional Chinese courtyard complex, consisting of houses, pavilions, pagodas, gardens, and courtyards.  We took our time to wander around the courtyards.  As we looked closely at the building decorations, we could find Islam functions and design elements incorporated in the traditional Chinese architecture, with the most obvious being the Arabic inscriptions on walls.  The entire complex faces west towards Mecca.  Artefacts related to Chinese Islam were on displayed in some of the buildings that were open to visitors.  However, the largest prayer hall at the far end of the complex was restricted for Muslims only.  We could only peek through the doors to have a glimpse of the colourful carpets and delicate wooden screens in the hall, where worshipers would have prayers sessions.  It was interesting to see the fusion of Islam and Chinese design elements combined into one single complex. Before sunset, we left the Great Mosque behind for our last designation in Xian, the Ming city walls.

dsc_8016We entered the Muslim Quarter from the main market street.

dsc_8023There is still a significant population of Muslims in Xian.

dsc_8039Cars, motorcycles, and people packed the main market street.

dsc_8042 The market street of Xian’s Muslim Quarter is a good place for people watching.

dsc_8050An awfully tall steamer in front of a local eatery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA street vendor put different topping on a local dessert called “jing gao” which is a steamed glutinous rice cake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA wonton vendor managing her charcoal stove.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALamb skewers vendors could be seen everywhere.

dsc_8138The entrance gate of Xian’s Great Mosque.

dsc_8069The interior of an old study room looks very much like a traditional Chinese house, but all the paintings and calligraphy on displayed were Islam related.

dsc_8074Islamic components were incorporated in the Chinese architecture.

dsc_8089The mosque complex is made up of a series of courtyards.

dsc_8098“Examining the Heart Tower” in the third courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main prayer hall at the far end of the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARichly decorated pendant lamps at the veranda of the main prayer hall.

dsc_8117Peeking inside the main prayer hall.

dsc_8121Wooden clock and timber screens of the main prayer hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeaving the Great Mosque behind, we exited the Muslim Quarter from another end of the market street.

DSC_8143.JPGIt was approaching supper time when we left the Muslim Quarter, and the food vendors were all geared up for their night of business.

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Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 2 – BELL TOWER, Xian, China

After the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, we taxied back to the city centre of Xian.  Before dinner, we decided to pay the beautiful Bell Tower a proper visit.  Situated at the heart of a roundabout, the Bell Tower could only be accessed via an underground passage.  We paid the admission and climbed the stair up to the podium deck of the building.  Ornate architectural carving, including the magnificent window screens, were well restored.  Since construction in 1384 during the Ming Dynasty, the Bell Tower had been restored a number of times.  The tower was damaged in the Second World War, and since then five restorations had taken place to restore the building into its former glory.  Originally built to house the bells to announce time for the city, Xian’s Bell Tower had also performed multiple functions throughout history: stage for public announcement, military beacon, temporary prison, and even the first ever film cinema in Xian.  We stayed on the podium deck for quite some time to admire the architecture and the urban scenery at all four directions, until we were urged by hunger to leave for a dumpling dinner nearby at a traditional restaurant called De Fa Chang (德發長).

dsc_7638Bell Tower in the centre of the roundabout with Drum Tower in the background.

dsc_7646Close up of the colourful timber architectural elements of the Bell Tower.

dsc_7650Across the street from the roundabout stands the equally important Drum Tower.

dsc_7661The Bell Tower and roundabout in 1960.

dsc_7664The beam and purlin system that supports the big roof of Bell Tower.

dsc_7668Close up of the beams and purlins.

dsc_7665Walking out to the deck of the upper level.

dsc_7705A smaller version of the famous Jingyun Bell (cast in AD711 during Tang Dynasty) was on display on the Bell Tower.

dsc_7708Stair back down to the base of the Bell Tower.

dsc_7736Bell and Drum Tower Square adjacent to the Bell Tower roundabout.

dsc_7743The Drum Tower as seen from the Bell and Drum Tower Square.

dsc_7750Dumpling dinner at De Fa Chang Restaurant.


DAY 7 – RYOKAN ADUMAYA, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo (熊野古道) 1 of 4, Japan

Founded by a shrine priest in the mid or late Edo Period, Ryokan Adumaya is a very traditional hotspring inn in Yunomine, the oldest onsen town in Japan.  With 22 rooms all finished in traditional Japanese style, the interior of Adumaya is dominated by timber and bamboo.  As an onsen ryokan, Adumaya has its own indoor and outdoor hotspring bathing facilities, which can be visited during the day even for visitors who are not staying the night.   As hotel guests, we were able to enjoy the hotspring facilities at Adumaya 24 hours round the clock.  Despite the short stay, we enjoyed the baths and delicious meals. 0Signage of Ryokan Adumaya was erected in a naturalistic setting in front of the inn. 1Situated in the middle of Yunomine Onse across the street from the public bathhouse, Ryokan Adumaya is one of the most prominent building in the village. 2Beyond the neatly trimmed trees and bushes lies the drop off and main entrance of Ryokan Adumaya. 3Entering the ryokan through the wooden overhang was liking going back an times of Edo Japan. 4Beside the main entrance mounted a board with names of hotel guests written on it. 5Traditional timber finish dominates the lobby and reception area.  We had to take off our shoes during our stay.  We could choose to put on either a pair of indoor slippers when staying indoor, or a pair of outdoor shoes for venturing out into Yunomine. 6The sitting area in the lobby was quite atmospheric.  The door on the left led to the bathing facilities and souvenir shop. 7Upstairs on the second level, the entrance into our room was right at the corner next the the main stair.  The wooden door then led into a vestibule and then into an anteroom before reaching the main living space of our room.  The vestibule also connected to our private toilet. 8Beyond the sliding doors of the anteroom is main living space where we dined and slept on the tatami. 9At the far end of the room there was another set of sliding door leading out to the sun room where a tea table stood. 11The sun room was well lit with natural light. 10At the far end of the sun room was the vanity counter. 12From the window we could see the main street and creek that bisected Yunomine.  Beyond that stood the village shrine on the left, and the public bathhouse at further back.

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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino 
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka