Let’s learn about one of the interesting cultures of China – the Dragon Boat Festival and how it is celebrated.
Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, is a traditional holiday celebrated annually on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in China. The festival is a time to commemorate the ancient Chinese poet and minister Qu Yuan, who lived during the Warring States period and drowned himself in the Miluo River to protest against government corruption.
The customs of the Dragon Boat Festival can be broadly categorized into two groups. The first group involves paying homage to the dragon god and heroes like Qu Yuan, and includes rituals like the dragon boat races and eating sticky rice dumplings.
The second group is centered around protecting people from evil influences and promoting good health. These practices may involve bathing in herbal concoctions, hanging wormwood and calamus, and drinking Realgar wine.
I. Eating Zongzi
Zongzi, which are also known as dzong-dzuh, are a classic dish that is commonly eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival. They are linked to the commemoration of Qu Yuan, and according to legend, rice balls similar to zongzi were tossed into the river to prevent fish from consuming his drowned body. In the past, families would prepare sticky rice dumplings to give and receive as gifts, but nowadays, only a few older family members who value tradition still make them at home, while most people purchase them from restaurants and bakeries.
Zongzi are created by stuffing glutinous rice with meats, beans, and other fillings, wrapping them into triangular or rectangular shapes using bamboo or reed leaves, and then securing them with soaked stalks or colorful silky cords. The taste of zongzi can differ from one region to another in China.
II. Dragon Boat races
The Dragon Boat Festival is primarily associated with the activity of dragon boat racing, which is believed to have its roots in the legend of a group of individuals who went out on boats to search for the body of Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet who died by drowning in a river in 343-278 BC.
III. Hanging Chinese Mugwort and Calamus
The Dragon Boat Festival takes place at the beginning of summer, which is a time when illnesses are more common. In China, mugwort leaves are utilized for their medicinal properties to combat such diseases. In addition to this, their aroma is effective in repelling mosquitoes and flies. Similarly, calamus, an aquatic plant, also possesses similar properties.
Typically, on the fifth day of the fifth month, individuals engage in cleaning their homes and courtyards, as well as hanging mugwort and calamus on their door lintels to ward off illnesses. It is also believed that hanging mugwort and calamus can bring good fortune to the household.
IV. Drinking Realgar Wine
An ancient proverb states that consuming realgar wine can help to ward off diseases and negative forces. Realgar wine is a type of Chinese alcoholic beverage made from fermented grains and powdered realgar, which is a ruby-like compound composed of arsenic and sulphur.
During ancient times, it was widely believed that realgar possessed the ability to counteract various poisons, kill insects, and repel malevolent spirits. As a result, it became customary for people to consume realgar wine during the Dragon Boat Festival as a form of protection and prevention.
V. Wearing Perfume Pouches
Before Dragon Boat, parents tend to make aromatic sachets for their kids. They sew small pouches out of colorful silk fabric, fill the bags with fragrances or herbal remedies, and tie them closed with silk strips.
On Dragon Boat Festival, the fragrant bags are hung around children’s necks or attached to their clothes as decorations. The scented sachets are believed to safeguard the kids from harm. You can find out more about Dragon Boat Festival traditions.