Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dragon Boat Festival 2006

Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and together with Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival forms one of the three major Chinese holidays. Since the summer is a time when diseases most easily spread, Dragon Boat Festival began as an occasion for driving off evil spirits and pestilence and for finding peace in one's life. The festival was later enriched by the legend of the patriot Chu Yuan.
Chu Yuan was a patriotic statesman who lived in the state of Chu over 2,200 years ago. He remonstrated with the King of Chu on many occasions, expounding on the state of the nation. When he could nothing about the fact that the King of Chu believed accounts of lesser officials, and feeling that he could no longer save the nation from the turbulence into which it had fallen, Chu Yuan took his life by jumping into the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Since Chu Yuan was also a famous poet, the day is also known as Poet's Day.
Story taken from here.

Dragon boat festival meant 3 things for me: a day off, people giving me the rice dumplings pictured below (in a previous entry) ALL week (now I know why they only eat them once a year, because they really go overboard during this festival), and watching some dragon boat races. I've been seeing some teams practice at the river not far from my house these past few weeks, and with the appearance of banners and tents a few days ago, I deduced that there'd be some celebrations there. It's nice to live so close, I just rode my bike there. I heard the races and other activities at another river in Yilan county were more exciting with many international teams competing, but I wasn't able to get there. Anyways, I enjoyed the races just fine after my morning bike ride and hung around until I felt like I was starting to get sunburnt. When I returned to the church, the pastor invited me to his house for lunch, where I got to eat both the sweet and salty varieties of rice dumplings.
Now to describe in a little more detail, rice dumplings are made from glutinous rice and filled with a variety of things including pork, mushrooms, peanuts, and egg yolks. They are then wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed. The sweet ones of course will have different fillings like red bean. My students told me that in the story, the common people threw these into the river for the fish to eat so that they wouldn't eat Chu Yuan's body. Speaking of my very dilligent students, when I asked them last week if they wanted the day off, insisted that they wanted class, so we didn't take a break, and they came, albiet a little late, and I was given still more rice dumplings made by Wendy, one of my older students.
Here are a couple of pics from the races.

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