Dragon Boat Festival

Posted on May 10, 2012 by in Asian Festival, Concerning Asia
Teams take part in the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Taipei on May 28, 2009. Originally the summer event was a time to ward off bad spirits but now it is a celebration of the life of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet who opposed the corruption of the imperial court. More than 200 teams from Taiwan and abroad will compete in the three-day race.

Teams take part in the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Taipei on May 28, 2009. Originally the summer event was a time to ward off bad spirits but now it is a celebration of the life of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet who opposed the corruption of the imperial court. More than 200 teams from Taiwan and abroad will compete in the three-day race.

Dragon Boat Festival. The Dragon Boat Festival, the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, has a history of more than 2,000 years. It is usually in June in the Gregorian calendar. For thousands of years, the festival has been marked by eating zong zi (glutinous rice(糯米)wrapped to form a pyramid using bamboo or reed leaves) and racing dragon boats.

Traditional Dragon Boat Festival Food

Traditional Dragon Boat Festival Food — Zongzi

The festival is best known for its dragon-boat races, especially in the southern provinces where there are many rivers and lakes. This regatta(赛舟会)commemorates the death of Qu Yuan , an honest minister who is said to have committed suicide by drowning himself in a river. on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 B.C.

Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet

Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet

Qu Yuan was minister of the State of Chu and one of China’s earliest poets. In face of great pressure from the powerful Qin State, he advocated enriching the country and strengthening its military forces so as to fight against the Qin. However, he was opposed by aristocrats headed by Zi Lan, and later deposed and exiled by King Huai. In his exiled days, he still cared much for his country and people and composed immortal poems. In 278 BC, he heard the news that Qin troops had finally conquered Chu’s capital, he finished his last poet and plunged himself into the Miluo River. The day happened to be the 5th of the 5th month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

After his death, the people of Chu crowded to the bank of the river, fishermen sailed their boats up and down the river to look for his body. People threw into the water zongzi (pyramid-shaped glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves) and eggs to divert possible fish or shrimp from attacking his body. An old doctor poured a jug of reaglar wine (Chinese liquor seasoned with realgar) into the water, hoping to turn all aquatic beasts drunk. That’s why people later followed the customs such as dragon boat racing, eating zongzi and drinking realgar wine on that day.

As the gun is fired, people will see racers in dragon-shaped canoes pulling the oars harmoniously and hurriedly, accompanied by rapid drums, speeding toward their destination. Folk tales say the game originates from the activities of seeking Qu Yuan’s body, but experts conclude that dragon boat racing is a semi-religious, semi-entertaining program from the Warring States Period. In the following thousands of years, the game spread to Japan, Vietnam and Britain as well as China’s Taiwan and Hong Kong. Now dragon boat racing has developed into an aquatic sports item which features both Chinese tradition and modern sporting spirit. In 1980, it was listed into the state sports competition programs and has since been held every year. The award is called “Qu Yuan Cup.”

During the Duanwu Festival, a glutinous rice pudding called zong zi is eaten to symbolize the rice offerings to Qu. Ingredients such as beans, lotus seeds(莲子), chestnuts(栗子), pork fat and the golden yolk of a salted duck egg are often added to the glutinous rice. The pudding is then wrapped with bamboo leaves, bound with a kind of raffia and boiled in salt water for hours. If time permits, people will soak glutinous rice, wash reed leaves and wrap up zongzi themselves. Otherwise, they will go to shops to buy whatever stuff they want. The custom of eating zongzi is now popular in North and South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asian nations.

On Dragon Boat Festival, parents also need to dress their children up with a perfume pouch. They first sew little bags with colorful silk cloth, then fill the bags with perfumes or herbal medicines, and finally string them with silk threads. The perfume pouch will be hung around the neck or tied to the front of a garment as an ornament. They are said to be able to ward off evil.

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