This weekend is the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival and on Friday the opening ceremony was held. Above is the altar on Ship Point Pier overlooking the Inner Harbour where members of the Ching Chung Taoist Church from Vancouver performed the traditional eye-dotting ritual that opens the festival.
It's an ancient rite that precedes every dragon boat festival. To begin, the Goddess of the Sea, the saints, and the immortals are invoked through the priests' chanting. Joss sticks are burned to cleanse and bless the arena of competition and competitors, and to charge the boats and their crews with the strength of a dragon.Below are the dragon boats that will race on Saturday and Sunday. The Dragon Boat Festival is held annually to raise funds for cancer treatment and research. It gets my vote as the best event of the year. Check their website for race times and the entertainment schedule.
The ceremony's climax comes shortly after, with the eye-dotting ceremony: this is when the spirit of the dragon is "awakened." According to Chinese mythology, the dragon sleeps in the mountains and travels to the water once awoken.
To "awaken" the dragon, the priests lead dignitaries down to the water's edge, where the dragon boats await. The guests take brushes in hand, dip them in pots of red cinnabar paint, and then dab the eyes on the "blind" figurehead of each dragon boat.
The boats are then decorated with special red ribbons that signify good fortune, smooth sailing, and blessings for the crew. At the end of the ceremony, the priests nourish and appease other souls who may have been present at the ritual by throwing them coloured beans - representing the five elements and directions. The priests also toss 18 ancient coins.
(From the Dragon Boat Festival website)