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Festive parade adds luster to ancient town

ezhejiang.gov.cn| Updated: February 16, 2017 L M S


The pavilions in the parade seem like large sedan chairs carried by a few men. [Photo by Zhang Yongtao]

Normally a sleepy ancient town, Qiantong in southwestern Zhejiang province woke to a riot of color, noise and pageantry on Feb 10 as the local people celebrated Lantern Festival with their annual drum pavilion parade.

Dressed in gaudy Chinese Opera costumes, crowds of local residents marched through the streets carrying the beautifully crafted pièces de résistance that have given the event its name: the drum pavilions.

Towering five meters high, these wooden structures at their base look similar to sedan chairs, but each has its own unique elaborate pagoda-like structure constructed on top.

At the apex of each pavilion sat one, or sometimes several, local children dressed as characters from ancient Chinese literature and mythology, while behind followed a trail of several dozen people beating drums and clashing cymbals.

The 500-year-old parade has become famous across China over the years. The parade was added to the country's national list of intangible cultural heritage in 2014, and the Zhejiang provincial government even gave Qiantong the official title "Home of the Drum Pavilion" in 1997.

The more than 10,000 people who flocked to Qiantong to see this year's parade were also treated to a number of other spectacles, including lion and dragon dances and other cultural performances.

However, the procession is also something of a family affair. The event began as a ceremony to pay respect to a great former resident of the town, Tong Hao, who led his family to dig canals and irrigate the surrounding farmland when the town suffered from drought centuries ago.

A large number of Tong Hao's descendants still live in the town today, and many of the large Tong diaspora return to Qiantong each year to take part in the parade. Each of the children sitting atop the drum pavilions bore the famous surname.

Tong Fujun, a 28th-generation descendant of Tong Hao, told reporters that he was quite pride of the centuries-old tradition. To him, it is not only a cultural event in his hometown, but also a family reunion.

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