Rowing a dragon boat, feasting on sticky rice dumpling, often called zongzi, and hanging calamus and wormwood on doors and windows are the must-do activities in May of the lunar calendar across China. Dragon Boat Festival, also called Duanwu Festival is celebrated as one of the four major Chinese traditional festivals. This one commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, the poet, and minister during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty.
Several main traditions are associated with the legend of Qu Yuan’s suicide. After Ying, the Chu capital–his homeland–was captured, Qu Yuan was so overwhelmed and devastated, he drowned himself in the Miluo River. After hearing about his death, locals paddled over the river, searching for his body. And that was the origin of Dragon Boat Racing.
Dragon Boat Racing
Dragon Boat Racing dates back to over 2,000 years and is popular in southern China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The vivid, dragon-shaped boat is the main symbol of the totem with a colorful head. There is no fixed rule for the size of the boat and the number of crew members. What’s intriguing is that there is a team member who usually sits in the leading position beating the drum. This is the team leader, usually with the most experience.
The influence of Dragon Boat Racing cannot be underestimated. In 2010, at the Guangzhou Asian Games, dragon boat racing was even an official competition.
In Hong Kong, a famous fishing village called Tai O would attract a great number of visitors to watch the Dragon Boat Water Parade every year. Departing from the temple, the fishermen would carry the deity statues to row through waters while the people would worship towards the dragon boat.
Chinese attach immense importance to family. Every year, when Dragon Boat Festival discussions around the authentic taste of zongzi take over. Two main regional varieties of zongzi in China are sweet and salty. Residents from northern China prefer sweet-flavored zongzi whereas the southern people favor its salty counterpart.
Sweet zongzi is usually filled with bean paste, hazelnuts, peanut, or dates dipped in sugar as a dessert-style light refreshment. Salty zongzi have plentiful fillings include marinated meat, salty egg yolk, mushrooms, and others, which can be served as a main course.
The leaves used to wrap zongzi too are different. Many parents and grandparents would teach their grandchildren how to wrap a zongzi, and that becomes a family-gathering during this national holiday in many local homes.
Besides, zongzi, there is various regional duan wu cuisine. People from southern Fujian and southern Taiwan eat jiandui, a fried Chinese pastry made of glutinous rice flour. Fujian people eat seasonal fruits including peach, loquat, waxberry, and plum, which are also offered to ancestors. It is a custom for people from Guangxi province to eat glutinous rice and bitter gourd during this festival. Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau people have the tradition of drinking Microcos paniculata, a type of tea that goes well with zongzi and aids digestion.
Fun Things To Do
People would celebrate the festival by drinking a kind of rice wine. It is believed that drinking this wine enables people to detox the dangerous germs and bacteria and prevent an epidemic when the weather is just about to become hot.
The most entertaining custom for children is balancing an egg upright on the ground, which is not easy to do at all. It is said that if you succeed, then you will have luck in the days to come. Due to the hot and humid weather, children would be asked by their parents to wear incense bags, containing the powders of wormwood, calamus, and realgar, to avoid contagious deceases.
Different regions of China have different customs. Take Xiamen as an example. Fetching ducks from the water is an attention-grabbing competition dating back to 600 years ago.
Dragon Boat Festival is no exception to the Chinese festivals steeped in superstition to ensure people’s safety and fortune. Legend has it that the baby born at this festival will do harm to his or her parents.
Very auspicious or ominous activities should be avoided during the Dragon Boat Festival. Wedding ceremonies, registering for marriage, and getting engaged is definitely a no-no. Likewise, opening ceremonies, constructing, sprucing up houses, going to the hospital, and visiting a patient is supposed to be avoided too.
Experience many and varied Chinese traditions during the Dragon Boat Festival. Do not hesitate to immerse yourself in this time-honored Chinese festival and catch all the boating action.
The Dragon Boat Festival (which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar) originally commemorated the ancient patriotic Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who protested corruption by drowning himself. Today, the celebrations revolve around the hugely popular Macao International Dragon Boat Races contested in late May or June on Nam Van Lake on the historic Praia Grande shorefront. Many local and foreign teams participate in various men’s and women’s divisions, making the medal haul wide and diverse in what has become one of the international sporting community’s favorite outdoor parties in Macau.
When: Saturday, Sunday and Thursday, June 20, 21 and 25, 2020
Where: Nam Van Lake Nautical Centre, Lago Nam Van, Macau
How much: Free admission
For more information, call +853 2858 0762 or check here