Coloured lights twinkled
through the smokey haze as more fireworks exploded overhead. The dragon
had twisted and spiralled its way up a pole until it's head now hovered
a good 15 metres abocve the crowd. It spits fire and sparks from its mouth,
causing many people to pull coats over their heads to protect themselves
from the embers showering from above.
||Every year the Thai city
of Nakhon Sawan, some 240 km north of Bangkok, ushers in the Chinese New
Year with one of the most colourful celebrations in Asia.
The Golden Dragon of Nakhon
Sawan and its troupe of dragon masters is highly respected throughout Thailand
and perform before members of the Thai Royal family every Year. The approximately
200 people responsible for this spectactualr display are members of the
Pak Nam Pho Market Residents' Committee, and range in age from 10 to well
The dragon is powered by
185 young men from the Committee and cause the 56 metre long dragon to
writhe and swirl in a frenzied dance throughout its performance.
|With no interruption to the
rythem of the dance young men race under the dragon and take over
from exhausted dancers who are then able to get a few minutes rest. In
this way the dragon can dance through the streets of Nakhon Sawan at the
time of the Lunar New Year for more than 8 hours without ever losing its
The dragon first appeared
in Nakhon Sawan over 40 years ago, and in the ensuing years there has never
been a shortage of helpers in town.
|"Each year, as the Lunar
New Year draws closer," says Committee leader, Surachai Wissuttaken, "more
and more boys come and ask if they can help with the dragon. I have to
tell the very young ones to come back when they're older, and sometimes
they get pretty upset about it. But I don;t have any choice - it's just
too dangerous for them."
But there is an occassional
exception to the rule.
explains about her 10 year old son Songyot, the youngest member of the
"I don't know why, but Songyot
just fell in love with the dragon the first time he set eyes on it. He
certainly wasn't big enough to do any of the work - but as long as he could
just be around the dragon he was happy."
Songyot now playes the cymbols
with the small orchestra that beats out the music that accompanies the
dragons frantic dance.
||"Sonyot didn't choose the
dragon", the boy's mother continues, "I think it was the dragon who chose
All associated with the
dragon express the same feelings of enthusiasm and affection. On one hand,
the dragon - and this one in particular - is traditionally associated with
good fortune and good luck. On the other hand, there's a tangible buzz
that comes from bringing this mythical creature so vibrantly to life.
"I've worked with the dragon
for four years now," says one 16 year old boy. "Sometimes we are paid for
our work but I don't do this for money."
Many companies, from small
local workshops to large international companies sponsor the work of the
Committee . Their financial support and the enthusiasm of the Dragon Masters
ensure the Golden Dragon will continue to delight many people.
|This story follows the troupe
of Dragon Masters who bring the mythical Golden Dragon of Nakhon Sawan
to life every year at the time of the Lunar New Year.
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