Hecun Village Bench Dragon

2019-08-27 11:16:20 source: Picturesque Zhejiang

bandeng dragon.jpg

(Photo credit: VCG)

The so-called Bench Dragon is a long dragon that is made of a dragon head and benches decorated with lanterns. The Bench Dragon of Hecun Village is a provincial intangible heritage project, which has a long history and is a custom that has been observed for a hundred years. Over the years, the dragon dance has evolved into an important traditional festival of the mountain village - "Bench Dragon Day on the 5th Day of the First Lunar Month in Hecun Village".

Initially, the villagers made dragon head with bamboo strips, pasted the dragon face with paper on which are drew scales and eyes, and then connected it to benches from each household to form a bench dragon. In the daytime, the villagers would hold the dragon and walk through the village.  

Later, with the change of the times and the rise of folk culture, they felt that such activities were too vulgar, so they carried out an artistic transformation of the dragon. They installed colorful lanterns on their benches, and rescheduled its performing time from the daytime to nighttime, which greatly improved viewers' viewing experience. Gradually, it has become a cultural tradition of performing bench dragon dance on the 5th night of the first lunar month in Hecun Village.

On the fifth day of the first lunar month, the 400 households in the village spontaneously take their colorful lantern bench, gather at a designated place and get ready for the performance. Each household is equipped with a 1.8-meter-long lantern bench, which will be connected to dragon heads carried by professional bench dragon performers. The bench dragon formed is about 120 meters long. In front of it, there is a bright red flag with the word "河村板龙" supported by skilled dragon dancers. They lead the dancing bench dragons and keep up with the Suona and drums band while the bench dragon jumps and waves. Eight performers dressed as "Eight Immortals (characters from Chinese legends)" with shoe-shaped gold and silver ingots in hands follow the troop closely.  The dancing bench dragon moves slowly up and down the street along the village's Cundongxi Stream. Every time it comes to a door, the owner of the house will stop the dragon head for a profit, setting off some firecrackers, fireworks, etc, otherwise, the bench dragon would not leave. The leader will give some lucky words such as "Happy New Year" or "Best wishes for everything".

The annual Bench Dragon dance activity in Hecun Village is very popular and colorful. People spontaneously organize and participate in the event. The activity goes orderly and favored by people. China Central International Channel 4, Zhejiang TV Station and Hangzhou TV Station had followed up and broadcasted the whole event. In 2007, the Hecun Village Bench Dragon won the Best Performance Award of Folk Art during Qiandao Lake Xiushui Festival in Hangzhou, China. At the same time, it has won the praise of many experts and scholars.

(Executive Editor: Yijun Chen)

read more