A team from the University of North Georgia's Chinese language program performed well in the 18th annual Atlanta Dragon Boat Race, held Saturday, Sept. 14 on Lake Lanier, placing 12th out of 55 teams in the event.
"Few stood against many; individuals worked as a team; the small vanquished the university bigs, and the weather was pretty darn good, too," said Dr. Michael Proulx, associate professor of history.
The UNG team, consisting of students, faculty and Dr. Chris Jespersen, dean of UNG's College of Arts & Letters, was led by Dr. Yan Gao, associate professor of Chinese at UNG. Notable opponents included three teams from Georgia Tech, one from Kennesaw State University's Confucius Institute, and corporate teams from The Home Depot and AT&T. With more than 50 teams and 500 spectators, the 2013 Atlanta Dragon Boat Race showed how Chinese-American cultural influence is growing by leaps and bounds in the metro Atlanta area.
"Your success is our pride," said Dr. Brian Mann, head of the Division of World Languages & Cultures. "It is also the prophecy of our intrepid Dean Jespersen, who knew his team was equipped to defeat so many worthy opponents. This is a perfect testament to the vibrant health and success of our Chinese program, as well as the institutional and interdisciplinary support it enjoys."
Thanks to student interest, UNG's Chinese program has grown rapidly since the university first began offering Chinese language and culture classes in 2006. UNG is an ROTC flagship university for teaching Chinese to cadets from across the nation, which started in fall 2011 when UNG, Arizona State University and Georgia Tech were designated as the Department of Defense's first pilot universities in the nation. In addition to college courses, UNG also offers Chinese to high school students during the summer in the Federal Service Language Academy.
Dragon boat racing may be in its early stages in Atlanta, but the ceremony itself dates back more than 2,000 years to its origin in Hong Kong. Dragon boat racing has become a cross-cultural experience the world over with events wherever there is a thriving Chinese community.
The dragon's head and tail on the boats are also culturally significant. Dragons, to the Chinese, are symbols of honor, strength, grace, and power. They are benevolent protectors. It takes three skilled craftsmen exactly 30 days to produce a 39-foot dragon boat, and they are manufactured exclusively in Hong Kong. Four days before the Dragon Boat Race, there is a ceremonial "dotting of the dragon's eye" which is believed to awaken the dragon's spirit so it may spread good luck.