Known as ‘Dragon Boat Festival’ to the west, in fact it’s real name in Chinese is Duānwǔ Jié. The fifth day of the fifth lunar month is a national public holiday in Greater China, and this year it fell on the 12th of June (Wednesday). I was fortunate enough to experience the event in Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Legend has it that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BCE) of the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty.
Qu was a descendant of the Chu royal house who held a high status government position. However, when the king decided to collaborate with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was accused of treason for opposing the coalition. Because of this he was subjected to go into. During his time in exile, Qu wrote poetry, most of which derived from his dreams and aspirations in life, and his enigmatic vision for how he perceived the future of the land to be like. Twenty-eight years after his exile started, Qin captured Ying, the capital city of Chu. Out of sheer misery, and anger, Qu committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Till this day, that day is noted as the Dragon Boat Festival.
The story goes on to say that the local people dropped sticky rice triangles wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river to feed the fish. The rice was wrapped so that fish would not eat Qu Yuan's body and would instead eat the rice. This is said to be the origin of Zongzi- the name given to the triangle shaped sticky rice wrapping. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing. Every year on this day, crowds gather to take part in Dragon Boat races, and eat the Zongzi. On the official Dragon Boat Festival day itself, many restaurants around the country offer the Zongzi as a starter before the main meal.
I fondly recall taking part in the dragon boat race this time last year in Shanghai, of which our super team was beaten into 2nd place by less than only 2 seconds! As captain, I was gifted with a superb team who excelled in all departments of organization, structure, and perfect motion of the oars with great timing. A fantastic team, along with perfect weather conditions helped us to become (almost) winners of the tournament. This year, though I will not be taking part in any dragon boat race, I will, however be watching a few races at the Zhujiang River (Pearl River) in Guangzhou.
The Dragon Boat Festival is a lunar holiday, occurring on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is a significant holiday celebrated in China, and the one with the longest history. The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated by boat races in the shape of dragons. Competing teams row their boats forward to a drumbeat racing to reach the finish end first.
The boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival are traditional customs to attempts to rescue the loyal Chinese poet Chu Yuan. Chu Yuan drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 B.C. Chinese citizens now throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water. Therefore the fish could eat the rice rather than the hero poet. This later on turned into the custom of eating tzungtzu, and rice dumplings (known as 'zhongzhi'). Chinese people normally have 3 days off work. So this year the 22nd, 23rd and 24th will be national holidays for all mainland Chinese people.
In Guangzhou, a race was organized in the Lizhiwan area of the city. Lizhiwan looks rather like Guangzhou’s equivalent of Amsterdam with boats navigating through the 743 meter-long waterway from Shamian Island to Liwan Lake. With lush greenery, numerous shops selling all kinds of traditional Cantonese food and period style buildings there is no better way to spend your day off. The one thing that does catch ones eye is the sensational ancient buildings with colonial style architecture that lie right next to rather traditional Cantonese architectural styled buildings. There is the amazing Wen Tower, a hexagonal designed pagoda style tower that gives a glimpse of the old style buildings. While in contrast there is the Chen Lianbo Residence, a typical Canton building from the 1920s colonial era.
Some people also pay a visit to their local temple to pay respects to Buddha or Guangyi. The celebration is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year. It is done so by different practices such as hanging healthy herbs on the front door, drinking nutritious concoctions, and displaying portraits of evil's nemesis, Chung Kuei. Now, supposedly, if one manages to stand an egg on its end at exactly 12:00 noon, the following year will be a lucky one. Maybe I will try to do that this year and see if the following year will bring me good luck. On the other hand, no matter what, everyday is blessing from god.
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