Four dragon boats imported from Poland by the Taipei City Government have raised a ruckus, with a city councilor calling them inauspicious and a veteran boat maker questioning their safety.
The horns and fangs on the dragons’ heads are ugly and look like a portent of evil, Taipei City Councilor Ho Chih-wei (何志偉) of the Democratic Progressive Party said on Monday, adding that they run counter to the spirit of holding dragon boat races, which is to ward off evil and pray for people’s well-being.
The four dragon boats cost NT$1.2 million (US$39,970), Ho said.
Photo: Chen Wei-tsu, Taipei Times
He questioned why the city government had a Polish firm build the boats when Taiwanese manufacturers are as good as — if not better than — foreign makers.
The “flimsy and fragile” quality of the dragon boats are another bad omen, he said.
On Tuesday, a member of a Taipei baseball team that has been training for next month’s dragon boat races accompanied Ho to inspect the dragon boats. He leaned on a dragon’s head, imitating the action of someone trying to grab the pennant at the end of the race, and the dragon’s head fell off.
Ho said that if the dragon’s head broke during the race, it could rock the boat or steer it in another direction, putting the rowers at risk.
A veteran dragon boat maker called A-cheng (阿正) said that while no two dragon boats look alike because they are the product of the artisans’ imagination, the shape of the four dragon boats from Poland looked “quite odd.”
A-cheng added that the four boats — made of carbon fiber — are lighter than traditional boats that are made entirely of wood. He expressed concern that the lighter boats might not be suitable for the Keelung River’s fast currents.
A-cheng also said there was no seat for the pennant grabber in the Polish dragon boats.
Responding to the criticism, officials from the city government’s Department of Sports said the four Polish-made dragon boats were not manufactured in accordance with traditional standards because they are to be used for international dragon boat races.
The department reviewed bids from seven companies before making its choice, they said, adding that the company had selected a Polish company from the 14 dragon boat manufacturing companies handpicked by the International Dragon Boat Federation.
As for the dragon’s head, the department said the head was made separately from the ship and the design could not be changed.
The dragon’s head that fell off can be repaired and affixed to the bow using screws, the department said.
As for the “missing seat” for the pennant grabber, the department said that competition rules for traditional and international dragon boat races differ.
Traditional races require a pennant grabber on the dragon’s head prow, but for international races, the first boat whose dragon head passes the line is declared the winner, it said.
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