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Dragon Boat Festival
     
 

Dragon boat Festival


Officially this festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Double Fifth Day. While many stories regarding its origin abound, the most popular and widely accepted version regards Qu Yuan, a minister during the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC)

Origins

At the end of the Zhou Dynasty (周朝, 1045 BC–256 BC), the area known 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 (hence the word “China”) would eventually emerge the victor and unify all of China under one rule for the first time in history.

A wise and articulate man known as Qu Yuan served as minister to the Zhou Emperor, 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


Qu Yuan was so loved by the people, fishermen rushed out in long boats, beating drums to scare the fish away, and throwing zong zi (rice dumplings wrapped in leaves) into the water to feed the fish and therefore not eat Qu Yuan's body.


 
 
     
Dragon Boat   The Modern Dragon Boat Festival

From the time of Qu Yuans death in the river, 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

The traditional food for the Dragon Boat Festival, zong zi is a glutinous rice ball, with a filling, wrapped in bamboo leaves. The fillings can be egg, beans, dates, fruits, sweet potato, walnuts, mushrooms, meat, or a combination of them. They are generally steamed.
  Zong Zi
 
 
Zhong Kui   Talisman and Charms

Another aspect of the Double Fifth Day is the timing: at the beginning of summer, when diseases are likely to strike, people wear talisman objects to fend off evil spirits. They may hang the picture of Zhong Kui, a guardian against evil spirits on the door of their homes as well. Adults may drink Xiong Huang Wine, and children carry fragrant silk pouches, all of which are believed to prevent evil. It is said that if you can balance a raw egg on its end at exactly noon on Double Fifth Day, the rest of the year will be lucky. Good luck with that…


 
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