As promised here is a brief history of the Dragon Boat Festival.
Duanwu Jie does not translate to Dragon Boat Festival. It actually means Double Five. The festival falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese Lunar calendar. In 278 BC, Qu Yuan committed suicide by throwing himself into a river to protest government corruption. Qu Yuan was a poet and scholar. To prevent his body from being eaten by the critters that live in the river, people raced their dragon boats and banged drums to scare them away. They also offered rice dumplings (zongzi) as food sacrifices so that they would eat the zongzi instead of his body. It’s also common to drink realgar wine as well. What, you never heard of it? Me neither and all my Chinese teacher could tell me about it was that is was made from a poison. She didn’t know the English word for the poison. Well, it’s arsenic! Yes, drinking arsenic laced alcohol is a tradition. It helps to ward off mosquitos and people dab it on their skin as an insect repellant. I ate the zongzi but did not partake of any arsenic wine!
Because it’s basically Chinese summer solstice there are some other traditions. Standing an egg on its end at noon will bring good luck for the coming year. NO good luck for me because I failed 😦 People wear little bags that contain herbs to ward off mosquitoes, they hang herb wreaths on their doors, and make bracelets with 5-colored thread. The 5-colored thread has its basis in Feng Shui. Red, white, yellow, black, and green all relate to the 5 earth elements and the 5 points on the 3-dimensional compass (I know I haven’t explained that correctly but I don’t know how else to say north, south, east, west, and the Chinese include the third dimension of center). There’s more to it but it gets very involved and I can’t possible explain it easily in a blog post. I will say though that it’s fascinating.
Red =fire & east (think of the sun rising)
Black=water & north
Green=wood & south
White=metal & west
Yellow=earth & the earth’s axis (It’s not called the Yellow River for nothing)
“D”, Anders’ wonderful admin, made zongzi and sent 2 home for us to try. I don’t know if she’s psychic or not but Berlitz offered a cultural class on the history and traditions of Duanwu Jie. Ben handed them to me after he picked me up!!! Zongzi are rice dumplings with a sweet or savory filling. They are then wrapped in leaves and steamed. The ones that we had were made with a red bean paste filling. They were bu hao, bu huai (not good, not bad). It was very kind of her to think of us!
Anders and I did not make it down to the river for the finals. So sorry! It was hot and it was “some crazy”. There were a lot of people and not much room because the grandstands took up so much of the available viewing space. That’s OK though because we had front row seats for the prelims.
10 AM – 88°