Dragon Boat Prow

Miao Culture, 20th century AD
Shanghai Museum

A Dragon Boat festival, symbolizing prayers for rain, is celebrated annually by the Hei Miao (Hmong) people. The festival takes place every year, in the early summer, on the Qingshui River; each village contributes a boat and crew.

The prow of the boat represents a "water buffalo dragon," thereby combining in one image the two most impressive creatures (one real, one imaginary) of the watery world. It has the shape of a dragon, and a pearl in its mouth like a dragon. But it also carries a rider on its back, wide horns, and many birds, just like a water buffalo. The strength of the water buffalo, and the swiftness of the dragon, are exactly the attributes you would want to have in your boat.