With Rice Dumpling and Dragon Boat Racing, Festival Comes
The Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, is originally observed by the ancient people to ward off plagues in summer. However, when the patriotic poet and scholar Qu Yuan (340 B.C. - 278 B.C.) killed himself by jumping into a river on that day, people began commemorating the poet on this festival as well. Along with the Spring Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival is an important day to the Chinese people.
In the present-day China, urban residents seem to have forgotten the true meaning of this festival in their bustling city life. They just buy some rice dumplings in supermarkets and consider that an observance of the festival. In contrast, rural dwellers observe the festival in a more traditional way. They pick wormwood leaves in the morning and hung them up on doors. They make incense pouches and weave colored silk threads in the hope of warding off plagues and evils. They also make glutinous rice dumplings with various fillings, while enthusiastic young people gather on river banks to take active part in the exciting dragon boat race.
In 2008, the Chinese government designated the Dragon Boat Festival and the Qingming Festival (also known as the Tomb Sweeping Day) as public holidays. People are able to visit family and friends, pick wormwood leaves, watch dragon boat races, make rice dumplings and incense bags on this special day, which helps to revive the festival’s traditional customs across China.
People drink some realgar wine during the Dragon Boat Festival. Speaking of realgar wine, a well-known legend can not be left out. Once upon a time, there were two snakes, one white and the other black, who turned themselves into dazzling beauties after thousands of years of practicing magic. They came across a young man called Xu Xian on the bank of the West Lake in Hangzhou. The white snake fell in love with Xu and they got married soon. A monk, called Fahai, saw through the alluring woman and warned Xu. Under Fahai’s instruction, Xu plied his wife with realgar wine on the Dragon Boat Festival and the woman transformed into a giant white snake, which scared Xu to death. The white snake went through many hardships and finally brought her husband back to life with a felicitous plant.
The two most important events of the festival are boat racing and eating rice dumplings, both of which involve dragon. Dragon has been an auspice symbol since the ancient times. The worship of dragon originates from people’s desire for a great harvest. A legend had it that the people at ancient times believed they were descendants of dragon so they offered sacrifices to dragon at the beginning of every fifth lunar month. They packed food with reed leaves or filled bamboos with food and then tossed them into river. They also went to visit relatives and friends in canoes. If they were in the mood, they would compete with each other in canoeing. This practice was the prototype of dragon boat racing.
With the vicissitude of society, especially the accelerating urbanization in recent years, the Dragon Boat Festival, to most Chinese, has been reduced to a dumplingeating festival. The festival, in the traditional sense, does not only have a particular origin, it is also the sediment of historical culture. The customs of the festival are mostly concerned with disease prevention and health care so it is known as “hygiene festival.” The part about commemorating the patriotic poet also renders the festival a patriotism ritual that passes from generation to generation. Like other traditional festivals, the Dragon Boat Festival also provides an opportunity for people to strengthen their relations with relatives and friends.
Chinese-English No.3 2009 2016-06-03