Saturday, June 07, 2008

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The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is a significant holiday celebrated in China, and the one with the longest history. The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated by boat races in the shape of dragons. Competing teams row their boats forward to a drumbeat racing to reach the finish end first.

The boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival are traditional customs to attempts to rescue the patriotic poet Chu Yuan. Chu Yuan drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 B.C. Chinese citizens now throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water. Therefore the fish could eat the rice rather than the hero poet. This later on turned into the custom of eating tzungtzu and rice dumplings.
Chinese Dragon Boat Festival

Chinese New Year, the Mid-Fall Moon Festival and the Dragon Boat Day are three major festivals in China. The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Chinese call this day as Duan-Wu .Wu means Horse month in Chinese calendar. The Horse month usually begins on June 5th or June 6th in the Gregorian calendar. That means Dragon Boat Festival should be held in June, unless that year has Leap Month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

In China, the Dragon Boat Festival memorializes the Chinese patriotic poet Chiu Yuan (340 BC-278 BC or 343-290 B.C.), who committed suicide by jumping into the river after tying himself with big rock on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month.

The custom of Dragon Boat Race might begin from the southern China. They selected the 5rh lunar day of the 5th lunar month as the totem ceremony. The dragon was the main symbol on the totem, because Chinese thought they were son of dragon. Later, Chinese connected this custom with Duan-Wu festival. Since this was the event only in the southern China. This might be why Dragon Boat Race doesn't that popular in entire China today. But we can see yearly Dragon Boat Race events in Honk Hong and Taiwan. The picture shows a person lies on the top of dragon head of the boat to prepare to catch the flag of target to win the race.

The Date of Chinese Dragon Boat Festival The 5th day of the 5th lunar month
Dragon Boat Festival

But since some of the well-known traditions of the festival already existed even before Qu Yuan, other origins of the festival were also suggested. Wen Yiduo suggested that the festival may be associated with dragon closely because two of the most important activities of the festival, dragon boat racing and eating zongzi, are related to dragon. Another view is that the festival is originated from the taboo of evil days. The fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar is traditionally considered an evil month and the 5th of the month is particularly a bad day, so a lot of taboo had been developed.
Duanwu Festival –
The Duanwu Festival is a Chinese traditional and statutory holiday. It is a public holiday in mainland China and in Taiwan, where it is known as the "Duanwu Festival". It is also a public holiday in Hong Kong and Macau, where it is known as Duen Ng Festival. Its alternative name in English is "Dragon Boat Festival", after one of the traditional activities for the holiday.
Dragon boat –

Dragon boat races are traditionally on the day of the Duanwu Festival, also known in English as the Dragon Boat Festival, making dragon boating the only sport to be celebrated as a national holiday. The Chinese calendar date is the fifth day of the fifth month, which usually corresponds to a date in June.

The use of dragon boats for racing and dragons are believed by modern scholars, sinologists and anthropologists to have originated in southern central China more than 2,500 years ago, along the banks of such iconic rivers as the Chang Jiang, also known as Yangtze (that is, during the same era when the games of ancient Greece were being established at Olympia).Dragon boat racing as the basis for annual water rituals and festival celebrations, and for the traditional veneration of the Asian dragon water deity, has been practiced continuously since this period. The celebration is an important part of ancient agricultural Chinese society, celebrating the summer harvest. They first used a "dragon boat" to save a local scholar from drowning in the river and went to save his life. They now honour this feat on (or around) the 5/5 every year (Lunar Calendar(.

Dragon boat racing traditionally coincides with the 5th day of the 5th Chinese lunar month (varying from late May to June on the modern Gregorian Calendar).The Summer Solstice occurs around June 21 and is the reason why Chinese refer to their festival as "Duan Wu". Both the sun and the dragon are considered to be male.(The moon and the mythical phoenix are considered to be female.)The sun and the dragon are at their most potent during this time of the year, so cause for observing this through ritual celebrations such as dragon boat racing. It is also the time of farming year when rice seedlings must be transplanted in their paddy fields, for wet rice cultivation to take place.

Today, dragon boat festivals continue to be celebrated around the world with dragon boat racing, although such events are still culturally associated with the traditional Chinese Tuen Ng Festival in Hong Kong (Cantonese Chinese dialect) or Duan Wu festival in south central mainland China (Mandarin Chinese dialect.(
The Hong Kong Tourism Bureau helped move dragon boat racing into the modern era by donating teak dragon boats to countries around the world, starting in 1980 when three boats were sent to London England, for the Chinese Festival on the River Thames. The following year two boats were sent to Germany. In 1986, the Hong Kong Pavilion at Expo 86 donated 4 teak dragon boats to the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Community leaders in Vancouver quickly saw the potential in creating a multicultual event that would bring together the Chinese and non-Chinese citizens for a fun event and festival, giving birth to the Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival, now known as the Rio Tinto Dragon Boat Festival. The original boats were loaned/rented to Toronto, Victoria, Seattle and Los Angeles and quickly helped spread the seeds for modern dragon boat racing throughout North America. Two Taiwanese style dragon boats were donated to the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association (PKSCA) in North America to help found the Portland Rose Festival Dragon Boat Race in Portland Oregon, USA.

Several of the largest dragon boat events outside Asia include Rio Tinto Dragon Boat Festival (aka. Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival) held in Vancouver, British Columbia, the GWN Dragon Boat Challenge held in Toronto, Ontario, Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival held in Toronto, Ontario, the Ottawa Dragon Boat Race Festival held in Ottawa, Ontario, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York held in Queens, New York, and the Portland Rose Festival Dragon Boat Race. The three Canadian festivals feature 180 teams and the New York festival features over 120 teams, and all are held on weekends nearest the Summer Solstice in accordance with traditional Chinese dragon boat traditions. The Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival has held its festival the first Saturday in October for the last six years and in 2007 hosted 136 teams, making it the largest one day Dragon Boat event to be held in North America. Portland, Oregon hosts several dragon boat races annually including the largest Taiwan style races in North America with over 100 teams and two full days of racing in front of 100,000 spectators at Portland's Rose Festival.
Chinese Dragon Boat Festival 2008, Races, Recipes, History ...

The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the popular Chinese patriot, Qu Yuan.(Chu Yuan) who in the 3rd century in protest of a corrupt government threw himself into the Mi Lo River in despair.

Along with the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and Chinese New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most significant in China, celebrated by colorful and lively races featuring narrow boats shaped like dragons.

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival - Good intro with pictures of the customs & traditions surrounding the festival.
Traditional Chinese Festivals -

There are many legends about the evolution of the festival, the most popular of which is in commemoration of Qu Yuan (340-278 BC). Qu Yuan was minister of the State of Chu and one of China's earliest poets. In face of great pressure from the powerful Qin State, he advocated enriching the country and strengthening its military forces so as to fight against the Qin. However, he was opposed by aristocrats headed by Zi Lan, and later deposed and exiled by King Huai. In his exiled days, he still cared much for his country and people and composed immortal poems including Li Sao (The Lament), Tian Wen (Heavenly Questions) and Jiu Ge (Nine Songs), which had far-reaching influences. In 278 BC, he heard the news that Qin troops had finally conquered Chu's capital, so he finished his last piece Huai Sha (Embracing Sand) and plunged himself into the Miluo River, clasping his arms to a large stone. The day happened to be the 5th of the 5th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. After his death, the people of Chu crowded to the bank of the river to pay their respects to him. The fishermen sailed their boats up and down the river to look for his body. People threw into the water zongzi (pyramid-shaped glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves) and eggs to divert possible fish or shrimp from attacking his body. An old doctor poured a jug of reaglar wine (Chinese liquor seasoned with realgar) into the water, hoping to turn all aquatic beasts drunk. That's why people later followed the customs such as dragon boat racing, eating zongzi and drinking realgar wine on that day.

Dragon boat racing is an indispensable part of the festival, held all over the country. As the gun is fired, people will see racers in dragon-shaped canoes pulling the oars harmoniously and hurriedly, accompanied by rapid drums, speeding toward their destination. Folk tales say the game originates from the activities of seeking Qu Yuan's body, but experts, after painstaking and meticulous research, conclude that dragon boat racing is a semi-religious, semi-entertaining program from the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).In the following thousands of years, the game spread to Japan, Vietnam and Britain as well as China's Taiwan and Hong Kong.

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