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Sending Away the Major Heat Boat

2023-07-13 10:50:00 Source:China Today Author:staff reporter MENG JIAXIN
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Taizhou people are sending away the Major Heat boat at the Temple of Five Saints in Jiaojiang District of Taizhou City in Zhejiang Province on July 22, 2012.

Sending away the Major Heat boat is a folk cultural activity in the area of Jiazhi, Jiaojiang District of Taizhou City in Zhejiang Province. This event dates back 100 years. Five temples are the activity hub, and involve many villages. The whole celebration spans three months from the fourth lunar month when villagers start to make the boat to the Major Heat day (the 12th solar term). On the day of sending away the boat, more than 100,000 people participate in the event. In addition to the local people of Taizhou, people from Ningbo in the north and Wenzhou in the south also join the activity. In 2021, sending away the Major Heat boat was included in the list of national intangible cultural heritage items. 

Jiazhi is located on the alluvial plain by the East China Sea. Every year between July and September, this area is frequently affected by typhoons, flooding, strong winds, and other meteorological disasters. As a result, sending away the Major Heat boat is held during this period praying for a peaceful summertime. Residents also build the Temple of Five Saints symbolizing a best wish to repel diseases and disasters. Scholars of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) had recorded in detail the process of sending away the Major Heat boat, which was already a grand event in the Qing Dynasty. 

The event incorporates the construction of the Major Heat boat, welcoming the saints on the Minor Heat day, offering wine, sending away the boat, and other activities. Among them, the highlight events take place on the Major Heat day. Under the direction of several revered elder men from the villages where the Temple of Five Saints is located, dozens of young and strong villagers carry the fully-built boat out of the temple and send it to the riverside. The boat is generally around eight meters in length and two meters in width. A shrine chamber is set up onboard to serve the five saints. Items like the livestock, grains, and wine are also displayed onboard. 

The parade processes along the street, carrying the figures of the five saints and local gods and goddesses, and perform a variety of local folk dance and music. At the same time, tens of thousands of people pray along the road for a peaceful summer. Following a ritual ceremony, the five saints figures are placed in the shrine chamber on the Major Heat boat, and the boat is towed by a fishing boat out into the open sea, where it is burned, manifesting that a wish of “sending the heat off, keeping a summer sound” is sent. 

Sending away the Major Heat boat is a symbol of the people’s reverence for nature and longing for peace, but also reflects the blend of 24 solar terms with farming civilization and local marine culture. This custom has evolved into a festival for the local community and has been preserved for generations.  

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