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Cultural heritage: field trips in Tai O

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T he Dragon Boat Water Parade of Tai O (or the Tai O Deities Parade) is an annual highlight of the Tuen Ng Festival organised by three local fishermen associations, namely Pa Teng Hong, Sin Yu Hong and Hap Sim Tong. Registered on China’s third national List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in 2011, the parade is a centuryold religious ritual aimed at pacifying the water ghosts and making Tai O a safe place in which to live.

To enhance secondary students’ understanding of the event, the Joint Association of Traditional Dragon Boats in Tai O and the South China Research Center (SCRC) now jointly organise Tai O Society and Dragon Boat Parade heritage field trips, with funding support from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.

SCRC instructors alongside representatives from the Tai O fishing community lead the students to explore Tai O’s geographical and ecological setting, and to understand the history and organisation of the parade and its importance to village life. These heritage field trips aim to connect students more fully to concepts that they are learning in the classroom, with experiential learning increasing their interest, knowledge and motivation.

The Dragon Boat Water Parade of Tai O takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month – June 7 this year. On the morning before the festival, the participating fishermen row out their dragon boats to visit four temples – Yeung Hau (Marquis Prince), San Tsuen Tin Hau (Empress of Heaven), Kwan Tai (God of War) and Hung Shing (God of the South Sea). They then carry the deity statues from these temples to their associations’ halls for worship.

On June 7, the deity statues are put on sacred sampans and towed by the dragon boaters in a parade through the waters of Tai O. Villagers burn paper offerings as the dragon boats pass by.

If you would like your students to participate in a Tai O Society and Dragon Boat Parade heritage field trip, email [email protected] School-based applications are welcome on a firstcome-first-serve basis.

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