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.