Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dragon Boat Festival is coming

Possibly the oldest sport in Taiwan, dragon-boat racing is an integral part of Duanwu Festival, an annual celebration for people of Chinese origin for over 2,000 years. The festival’s key date is the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, which this year falls on June 20. Each boat is guided by a drummer whose beats help the 20 paddlers synchronize their strokes; the vessels get their name from dragon-head decorations at the bow and the dragon tail at the stern.

Duanwu Festival is also when Taiwanese people make and eat sticky rice dumplings, known in Mandarin as zhongzi (粽子). These contain pork, mushrooms, peanuts and sometimes other ingredients. They commemorate Qu Yuan, a poet and government official who lived more than 2,300 years ago. Qu is remembered for his patriotism and loyalty. While in exile, he learned the emperor he had served had been overthrown. Distraught, he tied rocks to his feet and ended his life by jumping into a river in what is now mainland China’s Hunan province. Because Qu was so respected by those who knew him, when they heard about his demise they hurled rice balls into the water, so his body wouldn't be eaten by fish. That is how the rice-dumpling custom got started; the dragon-boat races are inspired by the local people who rushed out in their boats in a bid to save Qu.

While Taiwanese aren't nearly so keen on team sports as Americans or Australians, they've embraced cheerleading with a passion. Any event, including dragon-boat races, is an excuse. (Both photos taken from Changhua County Government's website.)

1 comment:

  1. The Dragon boat Festival is one of three major Chinese festivals and the unsuccessful rescue is commemorated with boat races, dumplings and drums!