The Duanwu Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. For thousands of years, Duanwu has been marked by eating Zongzi and racing dragon boats.

The taste of Zongzi, a pyramid-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves to give it a special flavor, varies greatly across China. Zongzi is often made of rice mixed with dates in Northern China, because dates are abundant in the area.

Eastern China’s Jiaxing County is famous for its pork-stuffed Zongzi. In the southern province of Guangdong, people stuff Zongzi with pork, ham, chestnuts and other ingredients, making them very rich in flavor. In Sichuan province, Zongzi is usually served with a sugar dressing. Most people still maintain the tradition of eating Zongzi on the day of the Duanwu Festival. But the special delicacy has become so popular that you can now buy it all the year round.

Duanwu is also known as the Dragon Boat Festival, because dragon boat races are the most popular activity during the festival, especially in Southern China. A dragon boat is shaped like a dragon, and is brightly painted in red, white, yellow and black. Usually, a dragon boat is 20 to 40 meters long, and needs several dozen people to row it. Boatmen row the boat in cadence with the drumbeats, as the captain standing in the bow of the boat waves a small flag to help coordinate the rowing. Before the race gets underway, a solemn ceremony is held to worship the Dragon King.

Dragon boat racing is quite a spectacle, with drums beating, colorful flags waving, and thousands of people cheering on both sides of the river. Nowadays, it has become a popular sporting activity in Southern China. International dragon boat races are held in Guangzhou and Hong Kong every year.

The Duanwu Festival used to have other interesting customs that are no longer commonly observed, though you may still find them practiced in some rural areas.

Ancient Chinese believed the day of Duanwu was unlucky because midsummer was just around the corner. The hot weather used to bring various diseases, which could spread rampantly.

Dispelling disease and driving out evil were the main purpose of the festival. People would paste on their front doors pictures of Zhongkui, a legendary Chinese ghost-catcher. People would also use cattail and mugwort leaves to drive away mosquitoes and other insects.

Since children are generally the most vulnerable to disease, they received extra care at this special time. Children would wear necklaces or bracelets, made of red, yellow, blue, white and black threads, to keep evil away from them. They would also receive colorful pouches containing fragrant herbal medicines as presents. They hung these around their necks, and would compete with one another to see whose pouch had the finest needlework.

Mothers also made sure to bathe their children in water boiled with herbal medicines. Modern science has proven that these medicines are, in fact, quite beneficial to health.

Ancient Chinese believed realgar was an antidote for all poisons, and therefore most effective to drive away evil spirits and kill insects. So everyone would drink some realgar wine during the Duanwu Festival, and children would have the Chinese character for “King” written on their foreheads with realgar wine.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Brief Introduction to Dragon Boat Festival

Officially  falling 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)

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 started from that time to this day, people commemorated 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 corn leaves. The fillings can be egg, beans, dates, fruits, sweet potato, walnuts, mushrooms, meat, or a combination of them. They are generally steamed.

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 also wear talisman to fend off evil spirits. They may hang the picture of Zhong Kui, 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 can 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.

Share
Random Posts
  • June 20, 2010 -- Xishuangbanna wild elephant valley (0)
    China's elephants exist only in tropical rain forest in Xishuangbanna now. The Xishuangbanna wild el...
  • July 21, 2010 -- Wal-Mart settled in Xishuangbanna (0)
    Recently, Wal-Mart dealt official signing with JinghongShengHua real estate Co.LTD, settled in Binko...
  • June 28, 2010 -- Daluo one-tree grove (2)
    A big-leaf banyan tree growing in tropics and subtropical zone is located 3.5 km south Da Luo town n...
  • June 1, 2010 -- Golden Banna Hotel (0)
    Golden Banna Hotel Xishuangbanna No.55,mengle road ,Tourism area of Xishuangba Xishuangbanna 666...