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.
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