This page was created by Weiting Guo.  The last update was by Kate McDonald.

Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Burning the Boat

The Wu Youru huabao: Fengsu zhi tushuo (1909) has an illustration of the ritual for “sending off a boat” in late Qing Wenzhou. This drawing, titled “The Grand Ritual of Sending a Boat” provides some details about the ritual. According to the description, the plague continued to strike Wenzhou during the autumn. Therefore, local elites and officials built a dedicated “water and land ritual site” (shuilu daochang) to invite deities for the ceremony. Twenty to thirty civilian and military officials attended the ceremony, which lasted for seven days and nights. People built a large paper boat and four smaller boats alongside it. Plenty of well-decorated items were stored in the boats. On the final night, between 9 and 11 pm, these boats were sent to the river outside the Northern Gate and burned on the water. Over 1,000 people gathered there and were holding lighted lanterns, making the night as bright as the daytime. After the boats were completely burned, the lanterns were also extinguished. People walked in the dark to the Western Gate, entered the city, and then left. The entire ceremony cost between 2,000 to 3,000 dollars, all of which was mainly obtained by donations from officials, shops, and wealthy families.

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