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Dragon Boat Racing and Local Self-governance Tradition in Modern Wenzhou

Roger Shih-Chieh LO (National Taiwan University)
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This paper examine the history of Wenzhou dragon boat racing between the late Qing and early Republican era. Frequently triggered by boat racing during the dragon boat festival every year, the armed fights among villagers, especially in Rui'an and Pingyang counties, became one of the most severe local problems since the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Previous scholarship has been focusing on local officials' and literati's discussions on the enforcement of local custom regulations. Integrating materials from field work and local historical archives, this paper explores the following three aspects: first, this paper argues that the annual dragon boat racing is actually a key part of politics in villagers' daily life, just like their lifeline. Secondly, the dragon boat racing is a local religious ritual which not only divides local political powers but also represents the tradition of local self-governance. Thirdly, this paper identifies the correlation between Wenzhou local deities and dragon boat racing during the Qing and early Republican era. By investigating these three aspects, this paper illustrates the significance of applying local perspective to understand modem Chinese history.

Journal of History and Anthropology