Chinese Dragon Boat festival

Dragon Boat festival or Duanwu festival is one of the most popular Chinese festivals. In Hong Kong and Macau it is known as “Tuen Ng Jit”. It is organized on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. That is why some people also call it the “Double Fifth”. According to the Gregorian calendar the festival is organized in May or June. In 2014 it is held on the 2nd of June.

There are two theories about the origin of this ancient festival. Some think that the festival is honouring water dragons. There is a folk belief stating that celebrating this festival helps peasants to ensure good crops.

The second theory is much more popular among the Chinese. It states that this festival is associated with Qu Yuan (ca. 340 BCE - 278 BCE). He was a scholar and minister of the king in southern Chu state. He did not agree with many wars his king lead. One day he decided to take a drastic action. He jumped into the Milo river. He was seen by some local peasants. They tried to save him out of water. But they just could not find him. To prevent fish from finding the body they started throwing rice into the water.

Zongzi
Zongzi

In remembrance to this action the Chinese today prepare special dish called “Zongzi”. It is made from glutinous rice combined with different fillings like for example mung beans, red bean paste, Chinese sausage, chestnuts, chicken, dried shrimps etc. Everything is wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves and then steamed or boiled. Zongzi is one of three basic elements of the Duanwu festival. Other two are drinking the realgar wine (in Chinese “Xionghuang Jiu”) and the dragon boat race.

Dragon Boat racing
Dragon Boat racing

A dragon boat is traditionally made of teak wood. It is human-powered. Dragon boat racing has been going on for over 2,000 years. Each boat usually has a crew of 22 people – 20 paddlers, 1 drummer (caller) and 1 sweep (steerer). Small boat has a crew of 10 paddlers. But there are also huge boats with up to 80 paddlers.