The Dragon Boat Festival
What Is The Dragon Boat Festival?
The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional holiday that celebrates Chinese cultures and in celebrated all over Asia. Known as the Duanwu Festival in Mandarin and the Tuen Ng Festival in Cantonese is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calender, which in 2009 falls on May 28 and in 2010 on June 16.
The Origins Of The Dragon Boat Festival
The origins of the Dragon Boat Festival are in dispute. One story holds that the festival was traditionally held to commemorates the death of the poet Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was a member of the ancient royal family who was banished for treason. While in exile, he wrote poetry until he killed himself after China was conquered on the fifth day of the fifth month.
The other theory on the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival comes from the former territory of the state of Wu and commemorates Wu Zixu. Wu Zixu was an advisor whose advice was ignored by the King. Wu Zixu committed suicide and his body was thrown in the river on the fifth day of the fifth ninth. Wu Zixu was treated after his death as a river god.
The last theory suggests that the Dragon Boat Festival celebrates the superimposed holiday that combines the stories of Qu Yuan and Wu Zixu. Lastly, some argue that the Dragon Boat Festival simply is a celebration of the ancient worship of dragons.
The three most widespread activities during the Dragon Boat Festival are the preparing and eating of zongzi, an angular rice ball wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves, the drinking of realgar wine and dragon boat races.
The eating of zongzi is a tradition done since the ancient times. Zongzi is a glutinous rice ball with a filling wrapped in leaves. Generally, the rice ball is filled with eggs, beans, fruits, meat or a combination of them.
The drinking of realgar wine is another traditional custom of the Dragon Boat Festival. While the Dragon Boat Festival celebrates Chinese culture, another aspect of the festival is to promote good health. Traditionally, part of the festival was used to protect the Chinese people from disease. Realgar is an ancient medicine in China. Traditionally, realgar was used to make household ornaments such as pots and cups. During the Dragon Boat Festival children wear charms of realgar and in some cultures the Chinese character for King is written on a child’s head with realgar wine to ward of disease.
Dragon Boat Races
The most popular activity done during the Dragon Boat festival is the racing of Dragon Boats. The Dragon Boat races occur all over the world and draw thousands of spectators. The Boats themselves are brightly painted canoes that range anywhere from 40 to 100 feet in length. The heads of the Boats are shaped like the heads of Dragons and the sterns are shaped like Dragon tails. Up to 80 rowers can power a Dragon Boat and each Boat has a drummer and flag-catcher.
Other traditional activities include hanging up icons of Zhong Kui, hanging up mugwort and calamus, taking long walks, wearing perfumed medicine bags, making an egg stand at noon and writing mystical spells. All of these activites combined with the drinking of realgar wine were regarded as the ancients as an effective tood to prevent disease and promoting health and well-being.
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