The Dragon Boat Festival or ‘Duanwu Jie’ in Mandarin Chinese
is celebrated in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and elsewhere around the world. The people of China generally receive a three-day break from work in order to celebrate with friends and family.
The Duanwu Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar. Because of this, the holiday is often called the ‘double fifth’ festival. During this time, people visit cities to enjoy the various festivities associated with the holiday. It is common to see impressive crowds in cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou.
The Dragon Boat Festival originated from the events of China’s Warring States Period. According to the old stories, there was a Minister of the state of Chu called Qu Yuan who supported the decision to wage war against the oppressive state of Qin.
At first the people of Chu and other Chinese states supported Qu Yuan, but as time passed, the King of Chu disapproved and to express his distaste for the war plan, the King exiled Qu Yuan. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote various patriotic poems that expressed his love and vision for China.
When the state of Qin began to gain ground and take over China, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River. It is said that Qu Yuan loved China so much that he would rather die than see it fall into the hands of the Qin. After his death, Qu Yuan gained prestige as an author and a patriot, and the Dragon Boat Festival began to commemorate his death in the river.
One of the most popular activity is the Dragon boat racing, named in this way because the fore and stern of the boat is in a shape of traditional Chinese dragon. A team of people works the oars in a bid to reach the destination before other teams. One team member sits at the front of the boat beating a drum in order to maintain morale and ensure that the rowers keep in time with one another. Legend holds that the race originates from the idea of the people who rowed their boats to save Qu Yuan after he drowned himself.
During the Dragon Boat Festival, you may enjoy a variety of cuisine that has been created just for the holiday. Zongzi (粽子) is one of the most common treats. These are sticky rice dumplings that are filled with rice, beans, and other ingredients. They are sometimes wrapped in bamboo or rice paper. The flavor and texture of zongzi vary greatly depending on region and chef. In Gansu Province, people commonly enjoy mianshanzi, a flour-based food that is shaped like a fan. The fan is made of five overlapping layers of thin flour dough that are sprinkled with peppers or other light seasoning.
It is also a common custom for families to eat paper-thin white wheat pancakes stuffed with leeks, meat, mushrooms, and other fillings. Eels are a traditional Dragon Boat Festival cuisine in Wuhan. They are regarded for their nutrition and flavored in many different ways depending on preference and the cook. It is also a common practice to drink realgar wine during one of the Dragon Boat Festival meals. Traditionally, this alcoholic beverage drives away evil spirits and repels disease.
by Daniele Yang