Chinese Dragon Festival
The festival is celebrated by most other countries with a significant Chinese background
During the long, hot days of summer, when the sun never sleeps and the insects thrive, it is not uncommon for disease to spread and pestilence to run loose. On the eve of the summer solstice, this is the cause and reasoning behind the Chinese festival known as the “Duan Wu Jie”, or Dragon Boat Festival. The Double Fifth Festival – as it is also commonly referred to – falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar year of the Chinese calendar, as its namesake suggests. This, along with the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival, make up the three major Chinese holidays and most celebrated Hong Kong events . In fact, the Duan Wu Festival has the longest history of any other Chinese holiday. And in 2008, for the first time since 1949, the government declared the day of the Duan Wu Festival to be a national public holiday.
The Dragon Boat Festival obviously has its name taken from the fact that every year during this time Dragon Boat races are held in rivers and lakes throughout China, as a way to fight off disease and bring in good luck and good health in the coming year. It has come so far as to already become an actual sport all around the globe. But in China its sole purpose is for tradition and good health in the coming year. The festival is celebrated by most other countries with significant Chinese background such as Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong . And it has its own East Asian counterparts such as the Kodomo no hi in Japan, Dano in Korea, and T?t Ðoan Ng? in Vietnam, each with their own cultural variations.
One of the major parts of the festival includes the eating of “zong zi”, which consists of delectable sticky rice triangles wrapped in bamboo leaves. The drinking of Realgar wine, or “xionghuangjiu”, is also an integral part of the festival, as it speaks to those who wish to watch their health and be merry for the coming year. In Taiwan, there is a tradition known as “fetching noon water” wherein at the strike of noon people from all over will draw water from the well in hopes that it will cleanse them and prevent disease in the coming year. Such is the belief that the Gods can grant them good health in the coming year that it is customary for them to hang up icons of Zhong Kui to guard them from evil, as well as the hanging of mugwort and calamus, taking day strolls as to cleanse the body of illness, and making the children wear sachets of perfume around their necks to ward off the evil spirits. This makes it one of the most visible events in Hong Kong.
The festival is said by many to have its origins in the story of Qu Yuan, a poet and a minister of the Chu state during the warring states period. He committed suicide in exile after he was wrongly accused of treason. In his honor, the Chu people threw sticky rice dumplings into the river where he drowned himself. This is what led to the eating of zong zi and the throwing of it into rivers throughout China, so as to feed him in the afterlife. And boaters used paddles to try and ward off the fish from eating his corpse. Such was his love for his country that the Republic of China now considers the “Duan Wu Jie” festival as the National Poet’s Day.
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Main image courtesy of vpickering (Flickr)