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On The Dragon Boat




Owing to having another holiday, almost every foreigner is familiar with the Dragon Boat Festival. However, as for what this festival is special for, aside from dragon boat races and suspicions bamboo-wrapped rice dumplings that are sold on every corner on these days, there is nothing much else that majority of people know. Meanwhile, this festival might be the most poetic among any other celebration in China.
Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most important traditional celebrations in modern China and Asia, and its roots go back to the ancient days. Dragon Boat Festival is also called Duanwu (绔崍鑺) that translates to “Opening the Seventh” in English.
Like many other festivals that were around銆in China for several hundreds of years, Dragon Boat festival is associated with legends and myths. In ancient times, it used to be a hygiene day when people would pick and bunch different plants and herbs to dispel diseases. However, later this day was changed to be a Dragon Boat festival as we know it. Its “common” origin lies into the story of the ancient Chinese patriotic poet Qu Yuan (475-221BC). Having written masterpieces like “the Lament” (Li Sao), even in modern times he is considered to be one of the greatest poets and writers for the entire history of China. 
As the legend of Dragon Boat Festival goes, Qu Yuan was not only a poet but also a minister of the State Chu during the period of Warring States in China. But for unknown reason the king of Chu exiled Qu Yuan when the state was on the threshold of war, despite his endless love for the state. The poet couldn’t bear the thought of his country being brought to destruction and invasion and decided to drown himself in the river. Qu Yuan died on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, so on that day every year people in China and Asia commemorate his patriotism and sacrifice. 
art_05.jpgHowever, the most popular Dragon Boat Festival legend is quite often confused. Another version of the origin of the festival tells the story of General Wu Zixu and his daughter Cao E. Premier of the State of Wu, Wu Zixiu, was noble and committed to the State politician (died 484 BC). During the restless time of warring States in China, a beautiful woman Xishi was sent to the Wu State from the State Yue to seduce the king. King Fuchai, being a great admirer of beautiful women, fell for the wicked enemy plan and his close adviser Wu Zixiu tried his best to warn him. Angered by the daring remark, the king forced Wu Zixiu to commit suicide and the body was thrown into the river. His daughter Cao E, filled with sorrow, was looking for her father in the river for 3 days and also drowned. Wu Zixiu’s patriotism and Cao E’s sacrifice for filial piety is still commemorated in many places such as Suzhou. 
However, regardless of the theory different people believe that the spirit of patriotism and sacrifice for greater good is behind the Dragon Boat festival and it is celebrated for many hundreds of years in all parts of China.
The name “Dragon Boat Festival” historically comes from the fact that to find the bodies of drowned heroes – Qu Yuan, Wu Zixiu or Cao E – people sailed dragon shaped boats. These boats require a lot of team work: one person sits at the front of the boat beating the drums in order to help rowers keep in time with one another. Dragon boat races are quite popular during the Festival and have already become a sort of traditional sport not only in China but also in Japan and Vietnam. 
As every other traditional festival in China, Dragon Boat festival has its special food. Zongzi – pyramid-shaped sticky rice dumplings – are sold everywhere during this period. Fillings and tastes can vary from one area to another – in Tianjin, for example, jujube is the most common filling while in Shanghai red bean paste and fresh meat are more popular. Zongzi can be really delicious – the trick is to find your favorite flavor and now they are becoming common food that can be bought all year round in many Chinese supermarkets. 


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