Today is the Dragon Boat Festival 端午节。Tianjin’s Dragon Boat festivities don’t even come close to what we saw in Taipei (though I did once see a dragon boat team bailing out their sinking dragon boat while trying to practice on the canal 卫津河), so if you want to see some dragon boat race pictures I suggest you take a peak at this gallery:
Dragon Boat Festival 2006
All our Dragon Boat stuff was written from Taipei:
This was fun, and colourful – our first dragon boat festival. It’s like a big fair, there’s carnival games and food and in the middle of it all, dragon boat races all day long. But in Taiwan the winner has to do more than just cross the finish line first: someone has to climb up on the dragon’s head and snag a flag with their team’s colour at full speed right at the finish line. The guy in the back has to steer the really long dragon boat to make sure the flag is within reach. We didn’t see anyone fall in, but we had the camera ready just in case. Each team has a drummer to keep time and a guy in the back who steers. The flag-catcher rides the whole way waiting for his or her one second of glory (or shame) at the end.
Some background info from NTNU:
Rowing dragon boats began as a ceremony for supplicating the God of Water to prevent disaster and bring fortune and later attached the rural custom of punting on the Milo River in search for Chu Yuan’s body. With the melding of these traditions, dragon boat racing has today become the highlight of all the festivities held on Dragon Boat Festival.
Before a dragon boat may enter competition, it must first undergo a ceremony to “bring” it “to life.” Local leaders officiate over the ceremony, held on the first day of the fifth lunar month, offering prayer to the Daffodil Noble King and the eyes of the dragon painted on the boat, to bring him. On the fifth day of the month, the boats are carried to the shore amidst the clamor of gongs and drums and a ceremony is held involving incense, prayers, and the lighting of fireworks. Finally, after thorough inspection, the boats enter the water for the competition.
Pretty much anyone can enter – schools and businesses send teams, other countries send teams – it’s a public, community-oriented thing. If PEI got big enough we could enter a team, but for now we resigned ourselves to taking goofy pictures with the dragons, eating lots of food, and taking it easy. We attempted stinky dofu again, on a stick this time. It’s an acquired taste (which we have yet to acquire). It was gross, and juicy. The lady cooking it was wearing a mask, and we don’t blame her! You’ll see little bird eggs on a stick, spirit money stuffed in the dragon’s mouths on most of the boats, the teams approaching the finish line and their teammate stretching for the flag, and lots of other stuff, including a whole dragon boat team walking and singing on their way to their waiting area, entirely naked save for some (not enough!) spandex.
You can read more about our trip to the Dragon Boat Festival here:
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We’re back, and the pictures are up!
It was a fun day. The festival was like a big fair – carnival games, music and dancing, lots of food, and in the middle of it all, the dragon boat races. In Taiwan the winning team has to climb up on the dragon’s head and snag a flag with their team’s colour at full speed right at the finish line. We didn’t see anyone fall in, but we had the camera ready just in case.
If PEI got big enough we could enter a team, but for now we resigned ourselves to taking goofy pictures with the dragons, eating lots of food, and taking it easy. We attempted stinky dofu again, on a stick this time. It’s an aquired taste (which we have yet to aquire). It was gross, and juicy. And the lady cooking it was wearing a mask, and we don’t blame her! It was a rare cool day, but even with a breeze and cloudy skies we felt sticky all day long from the humidity.
In the photos you’ll see little bird eggs on a stick, spirit money stuffed in the dragon’s mouths on most of the boats, the teams approaching the finish line and their teammate stretching for the flag, and lots of other stuff, including a whole dragon boat team walking and singing on their way to their waiting area, entirely naked save for some (not enough!) spandex.
It’s 端午節, the Dragon Boat Festival (May 31 this year; 5th day of the 5th month in the lunar calendar)! In the morning we’re off to 碧潭 (part of the Xindian River) to see some dragon boat racing and whatever other stuff they’ve got going on (apparently a lot).
We first learned about the Dragon Boat Festival from Anita, one of our level four students, during the Culture Sharing Night Martket trip. She shared 粽子 (rice dumplings) with us, and they form part of the story behind the Dragon Boat Festival. I’ve copied this verbatim from China-on-site.com (hence the unique rendering of English), which also has the whole story (with pictures!).
The Story of Ch’u Yuan
Ch’u Yuan was an excellent political official in Chu Kingdom during Zhanguo period.At that time there were several kingdoms fighting for leader of the country.Therefore each kingdom arouse its all efforts to make the kingdom prosperous.As a brilliant politician,Ch’u helped his king very much,and go without saying,his king attached importance to Ch’u,which made other politicians’ jealousy.They said bad things about Ch’u in front of the king,so Ch’u was ousted.Ch’u couldn’t see his country decline by the evils,so he jumped into the river,and died.People hold Gragon Boat Festival and eat Zongzi every year to show their deep love and respect to Ch’u Yuan.
What on earth do rice dumplings and boats have to do with a guy jumping into the river because he was so disgusted with his government’s corruption (I feel for him)? The people wanted to save Ch’u Yuan but couldn’t. So they went out in their boats and threw rice dumplings into the river so the fish would eat those instead of Ch’u Yuan’s body. The dragon boats and the drums were to scare the fish away from the body.
You can eat 粽子 all year round if you wanted (it’s common food), but they’re special during the Dragon Boat Festival. They wrap sticky rice into triangles with bamboo leaves (or sometimes lotus leaves). The rice is stuffed with different combinations of things: squid, shrimp, red beans, nuts, mushrooms, pork, egg yolk… that’s what we’ve found in ours so far that we can identify. They come with sauce and in lots of different flavours, including sweet red bean ones for dessert. Some were really good, and some were… mǎmǎhūhū. It’s been pouring rain non-stop for three days, but we’re going anyway.