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Chinese Culture & Tradition : Dragon Boat Festival

Do you know that next Monday (6th June, 2011) is Chinese Dragon Boat Festival? Officially on falling on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Double Fifth Day. This is a transitional festival with a hitory of more than 2, 000 years, commemorates the death of a great Chinese national hero and China’s earliest poets, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the river over 2,000 years ago to protest against the corrupt rulers.

Legend of the Dragon Boat Festival’s Origin
At the end of the Zhou Dynasty, the area we now know as China had fallen into a state of fragmentation and conflict. While the Zhou dynasty had ruled for several centuries, several other states, originally feudal domains, tried to carve out their own kingdoms. The state of Qin would eventually emerge the victor and unify all of China under one rule for the first time in history.

Qu Yuan served as minister to the Zhou Emperor. A wise and articulate man, he was loved by the common people. He did much to fight against the rampant corruption that plagued the court– thereby earning the envy and fear of other officials. Therefore, when he urged the emperor to avoid conflict with the Qin Kingdom, the officials pressured the Emperor to have him removed from service. In exile, he traveled, taught and wrote for several years. Hearing that the Zhou had been defeated by the Qin, he fell into despair and threw himself into the Milou River. His last poem reads:

Many a heavy sigh I have in my despair,
Grieving that I was born in such an unlucky time,
I yoked a team of jade dragons to a phoenix chariot,
And waited for the wind to come,
to sour up on my journey

As he was so loved by the people, fishermen rushed out in long boats, beating drums to scare the fish away, and throwing zong zi into the water to feed braver fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body.

The Modern Dragon Boat Festival
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Dragon Boat

??? Starting from that time to this day, people commemorate Qu Yuan through Dragon Boat Races, eating zong zi, and several other activities, on the anniversary of his death: the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
Dragon Boat races are the most exciting part of the festival, drawing crowds of spectators. Dragon Boats are generally brightly painted and decorated canoes. Ranging anywhere from 40 to 100 feet in length, their heads are shaped like open-mouthed dragons, while the sterns end with a scaly tail. Depending on the length, up to 80 rowers can power the boat. A drummer and flag-catcher stand at the front of the boat. Before a dragon boat enters competition, it must be “brought to life” by painting the eyes in a sacred ceremony. Races can have any number of boats competing, with the winner being the first team to grab a flag at the end of the course. Annual races take place all over China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and other overseas Chinese communities.

Zong Zi

zong zi

Zongzi is an essential food of the Dragon Boat Festival. In early times, it was only glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in reed or other plant leaves and tied with colored thread, but now the fillings are more diversified, including jujube and bean paste, fresh meat, and ham and egg yolk. 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.

Talisman and Charms
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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BTW, in China, we will have a public holiday on Dragon Boat Festival, so this weekend will be a big weekend (includes Saturday, Sunday and Monday) for most Chinese women on Chnlove.

It will be a good chance if you want to have wonderful Love Call or Live Chat with these women. Of course, sending some gifts or flowers to please them in this transitional festival is also a good idea.

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