Wondering what all the talk of dragon boat festivals is about, and where to actually witness the important annual traditional events associated with the festival? Look no further; this article guides you through the origin, customs and meanings behind the Dragon Boat Festival, and also highlights some major Dragon Boat Festival events taking place in various cities across China this June.
Origin of the 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, or Duanwu Jie. It started more than 2000 years ago in ancient China, during the Warring States Period. While many stories regarding its origin abound, the most popular and widely accepted version of the legend is the one involving Qu Yuan, a minister to the King of Chu during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).
Qu Yuan served as minister to the Zhou emperor. A wise and articulate man, he was loved by the common people. He fought against the rampant corruption that plagued the court, causing envy and fear among other officials. Thus, when he urged the emperor to avoid conflict with the Qin Kingdom, the officials pressured the emperor to have him exiled for several years. Hearing that the Zhou had been defeated by the Qin, Qu fell into despair and threw himself into the Milou River.
As the story goes, the local people, who admired him greatly, threw food into the river to feed the fish so that they wouldn’t eat Qu Yuan's body. This is said to be the origin of zong zi. The local people are also said to have paddled out on into the river, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. Modern dragon boat racing stems from this part of the legend.
Dragon Boat Festival customs
The focus of the celebrations includes eating zong zi, which are large rice wraps, drinking wine, and racing dragon boats in memorial of Qu Yuan. Now, people gather with their families, and enjoy both their time off and the centuries old festival. .
Dragon boat races
The dragon boat races symbolize the many attempts to rescue and recover Qu's body. 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. Annual races take place all over China, especially in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Hunan, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and other overseas Chinese communities. Now there are international dragon boat competitions each year.
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. They are generally steamed.
Talisman and charms
At the beginning of summer, when diseases are likely to strike, people also wear talisman to fend off evil spirits. Adults may drink Xiong Huang Wine, and children carry fragrant silk pouches, all of which are said to be able to prevent evil.
Dragon Boat Festivals, races and events around China
The biggest Dragon Boat Festival event takes place in Xiadu Park in Yanqing County from now until June 16th. Apparently, from June 13-16th, visitors can watch dragon boat races, traditional rice dumpling making competitions, visit a Dragon Boat Festival temple fair and much more. For those wondering how to get there, bus no. 919 from Deshengmen goes directly to Xiadu Park.
When: June 13-16th
Where: Xiadu Park, Yanqing County, Beijing 北京市延庆县夏都公园
A series of Dragon Boat races will kick off at Yangji Village (杨箕村) in the Yuexiu District of Guangzhou from June 11th until the end of the month, as part of the traditional annual Dragon Boat Festival. The events will continue for about 20 days. 500 boats will compete in this year’s races, and over 400,000 people are expected to come along and cheer for the participants.
When: June 11th to end of June
Where: Yangji Village, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou广州市越秀区杨箕村
More Dragon Boat festivities take place in Wanjiang Dongguan from June 12-30th. On the 12th, visitors can expect the launching of an event series called “our festival” and “Dongguan dragon boat month.” On the 13th, there’ll be Zong Zi making competitions, as well as a training area for making traditional Dragon Boat Festival foods and other food related events. Then on the 15,21 and 25th respectively, boat enthusiasts can cheer on the competing teams at the annual Dragon Boat races.
When: June 12-30th
Where: Wanjiang, Dongguan, Guangdong 广东省东莞万江
The 2010 Hangzhou Xixi Wetland Dragon Boat Cultural Festival kicks off on June 16th. The opening ceremony takes place at 9:30am in Jiangcun (蒋村) Village by the Xixi Wetlands (西溪湿地). The opening ceremony will feature a number of traditional performances, followed by the final of the annual dragon races in which 45 domestic and overseas teams will battle it out on the river. The final will take place in the afternoon of the 16th at the north entrance of the Xixi Wetlands under the old camphor in Shentan Kou (西溪湿地北门、深潭口).
When: June 16th, 2010
Where: Jiangcun Village, Xixi Wetlands, Hangzhou 杭州市西溪湿地蒋村村集市演武场
The 2010 Wuhan Dragon Boat Cultural Festival and the 2nd Hubei Dragon Boat Races kicked off on June 5th and run until June 16th. The events take place at the Donghu Scenic Area (东湖景区) and interested participants in the races can sign up for free. This year’s dragon boat races are expected to become the biggest in the history of the area, with hundreds of teams representing businesses, enterprises and society from Hubei Province participating. A total of 1500 people will compete for the top prize of 8000 RMB prize.
When: June 5-16th, 2010
Where: Donghu Scenic Area, Tingtao Scenic Area, Wuhan
Website: http://www.hblzs.com/ (Chinese only)
Tel: 027—87216085, 87718653 (for signing up, in Chinese)
Dragon Boat races will kick off at Taihu Cowboy Country Club in Suzhou from June 14-15th. During the event, some 40 teams will compete to win the reigning title. The resort is located within the Suzhou Taihu Lake National Tourism & Resort District located in Southwest Suzhou. Surrounded by beautiful natural scenery such as the splendid Taihu Lake, parks, golf courses and more, this event may be the perfect excuse for combining a relaxing city get-away with one of China’s liveliest traditional events.
When: June 14-15th
Where:Taihu Cowboy Country Club, Xiaoxia Bay, Jinting Town, Wuzhong District, Suzhou苏州太湖西山岛金庭镇消夏湾太湖牛仔风情度假村
Price: 60 RMB per day
Tel: 0512 6808 6406
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