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Dragon Boat Festival

An Introduction to Dragon Boat Festival

The 5th of the 5th lunar month is the traditional Dragon boat Festival in China. The Dragon boat Festival is believed to have originated in ancient China. A number of theories exist about its origins as a number of folk traditions and explanatory myths are connected to its observance. Today the best known of these relates to the suicide in 278 BCE of Qu Yuan, poet and statesman of the Chu kingdom during the Warring States period. This festival has lasting for more than 2,000 years.

Activities  in Dragon boat Festival
Because the area is wide and there are many nationalities in China, the tradition on Dragon boat Festival are different from place to place. The main activities held on Dragon boat Festival are as follows: daughters come back to their home, hanging the portrait of Zhongkui (a man who is good at catching ghosts), welcoming the ghost boat, hanging up the calamus and Chinese mugwort, dragon boat racing, competition in martial skills, swinging, drinking realgar wine or calamus wine, eating the wudu pie, salted eggs, eating zongzi (pyramid-shaped mass of glutinous rice wrapped in leaves) and fresh vegetables. Some of the activities have been to abroad and developed well. For example, dragon boat racing has been an international game.

Dragon boat racing
Dragon boat racing is a main activity in the Dragon boat Festival. Dragon boat festival commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan. He was a loyal minister serving the King of Chu during the Warring States Period in the third century BCE. Initially his sovereign favored Qu Yuan, but over time, his wisdom and erudite ways antagonized other court officials. As a result Qu Yuan was accused of trumped-up charges of conspiracy and ejected by his sovereign. During his exile, Qu Yuan composed many poems to express his anger and sorrow towards his sovereign and people. In the year 278 BCE, at the age of 37, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River. He clasped a heavy stone to his chest and leaped into the water.People felt very sorry about his death and they rowed their boats to rescue him. They tried their best to catch up with him, but when they got Dongting Lake, Qu Yuan’s body could not be found any more. Later, many people imitated these acts to show their respect for this great patriotic poet and this practice continues today. This is said to be the going of Dragon boat racing.

Today 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.

Eating zongzi
Zongzi is a kind of pyramid-shaped mass of glutinous rice wrapped in leaves. It is also called as jiaoshu or tongshu. Eating zongzi on Dragon boat Festival is an old tradition in China. Nowadays, every Chinese family makes zongzi on the Dragon boat Festival. The shape of zongzi ranges from being relatively tetrahedral in southern China to cylindrical in northern China. Wrapping a zongzi neatly is a skill which is passed down through families, as are the recipes. Like tamale-making in Mexico and Pamonha-making in Brazil, making zongzi was a family event with everyone helping out. While traditional Chinese zongzi are wrapped in bamboo leaves, the leaves of lotus, maize, banana, canna, shell ginger or pandan leaves are sometimes used as substitutes in other countries. Each kind of leaf imparts its own unique smell and flavor to the rice. There are many kinds of zongzi, such as the jujube zongzi, ham zongzi, bean paste zongzi, pork zongzi and so on. The most outstanding representative is the zongzi in Jiaxing of Zhejiang Province. Zongzi is not only popular in China; it has been spread to Korea, Japan and some other countries in Southeast Asia.

Other activities
Hanging calamus and Chinese mugwort hanging calamus and Chinese mugwort is an important activity on Dragon Boat Festival. At that day adults drink hsiung huang wine and children are given fragrant sachets, both of which are said to possess qualities for preventing evil and bringing peace.

Occurring at the beginning of summer when insects thrive, the festival was distinguished from other occasions in earlier days as a time for reminding family members to take care of their health. The Chinese continue to heed this wisdom, however, by replacing the traditional customs of hanging calamus and moxa, drinking hsiung huang wine, and giving sachets, with more advanced methods for protecting one's health.

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