At BSSC, the Dragon Boat Festival is an opportunity to celebrate with Chinese international students and their homestay families. This year students gave a presentation to around 80 people regarding the festival and explained the significance of the Zongzi tradition. The delicious wontons and soup they had made earlier was much enjoyed—as was the birthday cake for those with birthdays around this time of year.
The Dragon Boat Festival, together with Spring Festival and Moon Festival, is one of the three major holidays celebrated in Chinese society. Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. It is the start of the summer in China—a time when the temperatures rise and the spread of diseases becomes of great concern. The festival began as an occasion for driving off evil spirits and pestilence and finding peace in one’s life, but was later enriched by the legend of Chu Yuan.
Qu Yuan Legend: Qu Yuan was a patriotic poet and a loyal official of the state of Chu Dynasty about 2400 years ago. He dedicated his whole life to assisting the king to build the State of Chu stronger. He advised the King to ally with the State of Chi to fight against the most powerful State of Chin. However, he was slandered by jealous officials and accused of treason, and the King dismissed and exiled him. In 278 BC, the Chin State conquered the capital of Chu. On hearing of the defeat, Qu Yuan in great despair committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month.
It is said that the local people, who admired him, dropped sticky rice triangles wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river to feed the fish, so that fish wouldn’t eat Qu Yuan’s body but eat the rice instead. This is said to be the origin of Zongzi. People also paddled their boats up and down the river to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.
Traditions – Dragon Boat Racing: A dragon boat is a human-powered wooden watercraft. It is shaped and decorated in the form of a Chinese dragon. During the race each team has a drummer in the head of the dragon boat; the drummer is the heartbeat of the team. Dragon boat teams paddle harmoniously at a pace which is set by the drummer, and do their best synchronized efforts.
Traditions – Wearing Incense Bags: Many contagious diseases and plagues were said to originate during the fifth lunar month when the Dragon Boat Festival takes place. Chinese people, especially children, made incense bags and hung them on their necks to avoid catching contagious diseases and to keep evil spirits away. Incense bags are made from a variety of sewn bags and include the powders of many herbs and other fragrant items. This tradition has been almost abandoned nowadays.
Traditional Food – Zongzi: It is a traditional custom for Chinese to eat Zongzi, a kind of sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves, during the Dragon-boat Festival. Zongzi are usually made of glutinous rice with meat or some other filling, and wrapped in bamboo leaves in the shape of a triangular pyramid. They are many different flavours and shapes of zongzi available.