Monday, June 2, 2014

Happy Dragon Boat Festival

About 10 years ago I met a middle-age lady who was traveling to somewhere in southeast Asia to compete in some kind of boat race with her dragon boat team. I was intrigued to discover that the shipped their elaborately decorated boat half way around the world each year, sometimes several times…just for the fun of it. It wasn't until I lived in China in the month of June that I discovered that this wasn't just a lark. There really is a Dragon Festival with dragon boat races. What might surprise you is what all the racing is about.  Joanna's presentation told me the rest of the story…..

"Good morning, everyone. Today, my topic is the custom of Dragon Boat Festival.  As we all know the festival of the day is to venerate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan. He was very loyal minister in state of Chu (221-206 BC). But wealthy Zi Lan told lies about him to the king so Qu Yuan was exiled. He kept his patriot feeling alive writing great poems. After he wrote his last and best poem he drowned himself in the river rather than see his country conquered by Qin. Because of this there are three main activities to commemorate his death.

"First, people drink wine to protect themselves from illness and some people pour wine into the river hoping to turn all aquatic beasts drunk, in case they will harm Qu Yuan.
"Second, when the local people back in Qu Yuan's time heard that he threw himself into river many fishermen searched for his body by sailing their boats on the river. Other villagers threw eggs and zongzi (rice pudding) into river to attract fish and animals from destroying Qu Yuaan's body. Today Chinese people imitate these acts and throw special Chinese rice-pudding into the river to show respect for this great patriot poet.  Zongzi is now made in various shapes and we become customers of these rice puddings wrapped and tied in leaves. 

"Last but not least, one of the most important activities of Dragon Boat Festival is the dragon boat racing, which always attract many spectators. It is said that the original ancient Chu people were reluctant to see Qu Yuan die, so many people tried to catch up with the rescue boat. They hoped Qu Yuan would be saved. But now dragon boat racing has developed into an aquatic sports item which features both Chinese tradition and modern sporting spirit. Dragon Boat Racing reflects a unity and cooperation, to make progress in the national spirit.

"May you have a happy Dragon Boat Festival holiday."

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