The Chinese boat festival reminds us that Revelation’s serpent transcends Western and Eastern cultural concepts, say Asian biblical scholars.
Most times, you hear the dragon boats before you see them.
Jumanji-style drum beats fill the air, pounding out a steady rhythm as a 20-strong crew paddles in sync on long, sleek boats in a bid to outrace one another. But the intensity of these competitions aren’t the only eye-catching feature during the Dragon Boat Festival, which takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar and falls on June 22 this year.
The boats’ visually arresting designs also play a part in enticing crowds of curious onlookers. Every boat bears a fierce-looking dragon head on its bow, with two horns, piercing eyes, and a wide-open mouth filled with sharp teeth.
Most Chinese Christians do not see any issue with observing or participating in the Dragon Boat Festival, whether through the boat races or in eating savory, sticky rice dumplings known as zongzi (粽子). However, they may regard dragons negatively because of how these fabled creatures are depicted in Scripture.
It’s important to dispel misconceptions about these mythical beings in Chinese culture and develop a fuller understanding of what dragons in the Bible refer to, the biblical scholars CT interviewed say.
Chinese people often have furniture or jewelry bearing images of dragons, as they symbolize prosperity, luck, blessing, and wisdom in Chinese culture. The fantastical beasts are also emblems of imperial power: Chinese emperors were described as “the dragon” and often wore a robe emblazoned with a dragon to represent their “divine and omnipotent rule.”
But some pastors in Malaysia and Hong Kong, as well as at Chinese churches in the US, tell believers to destroy these items because they are evil, says K. K. Yeo, a New Testament …