Saturday, 4 June 2011

Dragon Boat Festival

June the 6th is the Dragon Boat Festival ( 端午節 Tuen Ng Jit). This is a day that is observed and celebrated in many parts of East Asia, and in the Motherland it is a public holiday.  Like other traditional festivals, the Dragon Boat Festival follows the lunar calendar (the fifth day of the fifth month) and therefore in the Gregorian calender it changes from year to year.  In the UK the Dragon Boat Festival will be celebrated on many a river.  The competition takes the form of charity races, racing associations and corporate events.  All in all it promotes team work and community and is a fun day out for all the family.

The festival is thought to originate from a folk story based on the Chinese scholar, poet and minister Qu Yuan   (屈原) who lived during China's warring states period.  As a loyal adviser to the King and his state, he was a champion of peace, truth and justice.  However the King, under the influence of jealous and corrupt ministers, banished him from the court.  Not long after, the state was attacked and the King was captured.  Qu Yuan, upon hearing of the demise of his country and the King's fate, was overcome by sorrow and despair.  He then threw himself in the Miluo river.

 Qu Yuan (屈原)

It is said that the ordinary citizens, who knew and respected the good minister, rushed out to rescue him.  Unable to find him in the water, they resorted to throwing packages of rice into the river and beating drums in an attempt to scare away the fish so that they would leave Qu Yuan's body alone.  To this day, this tradition is repeated to commemorate Qu Yuan's death: the rice packages are now known as zongzi  (粽子) which are rice dumplings consisting of glutinous rice with various fillings that are wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves.  The boats are now long boats, decorated with the head and tail of a dragon and are raced with a drummer on board.

  Zongzi (粽子) with meat filling

Dragon Boat race



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