17 March 2010

Dragon Raises His Head on the Long Tai Tou Festival

Longtaitou Festival (simplified Chinese: 龙抬头; traditional Chinese: 龍抬頭; pinyin: lóng táitóu), also known as the Eryueer Festival(二月二), is a traditional Chinese festival held on the second day of the second month of the Chinese calendar. The festival is a reflection of the ancient agrarian Chinese culture. In the tradition of Chinese culture, the dragon is believed to be the king of all insects and at same time. It is also believed to be in charge of bringing rains, and both of these are important factors in ancient agricultural society. It is called "Dragon rising its head" (Long Tai Tou, 龙抬头) because the dragon was traditionally regarded in China as the deity in charge of rain, an important factor in ancient agriculture. It is sometimes also simply called "2 Month 2", (Er Yue Er, 二月二) for short. Longtaitou Festival is different from Zhonghe Festival for the latter was an official festival and holiday in the Tang and Song Dynasties, and it was celebrated on the first day of the second month of the Chinese calendar.

Longtaitou Festival is celebrated around the time of Jingzhe, one of the 24 solar terms (節氣). The phrase Jing Zhe (驚蟄) has the meaning of awakening of the hibernated (implying insects). Jing (驚) is startling, and Zhe (蟄) is hibernated (insects). This is the time during which the hibernating insects begun to wake up at the beginning of early spring, which is often accompanied by the arrival of the first rains, meaning the weather is getting warm. Longtaitou Festival is an important worship ritual of wishing for good harvest in the coming months. In addition to paying respect to Dragon King, was often paid to Tu Di Gongtoo and wishes are often made at the temples for Tu Di Gong. Another ancient practice to celebrate Longtaitou Festival was to get rid of insect pests in homes via fumigation by burning various herbs with recognized insect repellent effects.

Today, Longtaitou Festival is celebrated in various ways, most of which are still identical to those practiced in the ancient times, including getting a haircut, eating Chinese pancakes (春饼) and noodles. Perfume bags filled with the powder of ground fragrant herbs are made to be carried by women and children for good fortune, though they are no longer used as insect repellent as in ancient times. Another ancient celebration still practiced today is that Longtaitou Festival is the first day of the Taihao (太昊) temple fair that lasts until the third day of the third month of the lunar calendar. Taihao (太昊) temple fair is a celebration of ancestral deities Fuxi and Nüwa and Longtaitou Festival marking the beginning of this celebration.

There were ancient traditions of celebrating Longtaitou Festival that are no longer practiced, including:

  • Women should not practice sewing because needles could puncture the eyes of dragon.
  • Plant ashes were spread around the house, and then inside the house, and finally around the earthen jug, symbolizing inviting the dragon to provide enough rain for good harvests.
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