Dragonboat festival (Duanwu jie)

The Dragon Boat Festival, also called the Duanwu Festival, is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month according to the Chinese calendar. For thousands of years, the festival has been marked by eating zong zi (glutinous rice(糯米)wrapped to form a pyramid using bamboo or reed leaves) and racing dragon boats

Zongzi

Zongzi

The festival is best known for its dragon-boat races, especially in the southern provinces where there are many rivers and lakes.This regatta(赛舟会)commemorates the death of Qu Yuan , an honest minister who is said to have committed suicide by drowning himself in a river.

Origin:

Qu was a minister of the State of Chu situated in present-day Hunan and Hubei provinces, during the Warring States Period (475-221BC)(战国时期). He was upright, loyal and highly esteemed for his wise counsel that brought peace and prosperity to the state. However, when a dishonest and corrupt prince vilified Qu, he was disgraced and dismissed from office. Realizing that the country was now in the hands of evil and corrupt officials, Qu grabbed a large stone and leapt into the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth month. Nearby fishermen rushed over to try and save him but were unable to even recover his body. Thereafter, the state declined and was eventually conquered by the State of Qin.

An ink painting depicting Qu Yuan with writing brush and chain

An ink painting depicting Qu Yuan with writing brush and chain

The people of Chu who mourned the death of Qu threw rice into the river to feed his ghost every year on the fifth day of the fifth month. But one year, the spirit of Qu appeared and told the mourners that a huge reptile(爬行动物)in the river had stolen the rice. The spirit then advised them to wrap the rice in silk and bind it with five different-colored threads before tossing it into the river.

Activities:

Three of the most widespread activities for Duanwu Festival are eating (and preparing) Zongzi drinking Realgar wine, and racing Dragon boats.

Other common activities include hanging up icons of  Zongkui (a mythic guardian figure), hanging Mugwort and Calamus taking long walks, and wearing perfumed medicine bags. Other traditional activities include a game of making an egg stand at noon (this “game” is one that if you make the egg stand at exactly 12.00 noon you will have luck for the next year), and writing Spells. All of these activities, together with the drinking of realgar wine, were regarded by the ancients as effective in preventing disease or evil and promoting health and well-being.

Zhongkui

Zhongkui

Making Zongzi(Bamboo Rice wraps):

During the Duanwu Festival, a glutinous rice pudding called zong zi is eaten to symbolize the rice offerings to Qu. Ingredients such as beans, lotus seeds(莲子),chestnuts(栗子), pork fat and the golden yolk of a salted duck egg are often added to the glutinous rice. The pudding is then wrapped with bamboo leaves, bound with a kind of raffia and boiled in salt water for hours.

Making Zongzi

Making Zongzi

The dragon-boat races symbolize the many attempts to rescue and recover Qu’s body. A typical dragon boat ranges from 50-100 feet in length, with a beam of about 5.5 feet, accommodating two paddlers seated side by side.

A wooden dragon head is attached at the bow, and a dragon tail at the stern(船尾). A banner hoisted on a pole is also fastened at the stern and the hull is decorated with red, green and blue scales edged in gold. In the center of the boat is a canopied shrine behind which the drummers, gong(铜锣)beaters andcymbal(铙钹)players are seated to set the pace for the paddlers.

Participants compete in a boat race held to mark the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Shantou, south China's Guangdong Province.

Participants compete in a boat race held to mark the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Shantou, south China’s Guangdong Province.

Shantou, south China's Guangdong Province

Participants compete in a boat race held to mark the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Shantou, south China’s Guangdong Province.

Participants compete in a boat race held to mark the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Mochou Lake, Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province.

Participants compete in a boat race held to mark the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Mochou Lake, Nanjing, east China’s Jiangsu Province.

There are also men positioned at the bow to set off firecrackers, toss rice into the water and pretend to be looking for Qu.  The races are held among different clans, villages and organizations, and the winners are awarded medals, banners, jugs of wine and festive meals.

 

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One thought on “Dragonboat festival (Duanwu jie)

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