The Dragon Boat Festival (Duan wu Jie)-Dumpling festival- Chinese
The Dragon Boat Festival, Duanwu or Duanyang Jie, falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. It was the day for a tribe living in ancient states of Wu and Yue (5,000 years ago in present-day Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces) to offer sacrifices to its totem, the dragon. To defend themselves against insects, drought, flood and other plagues, they created an imaginary dragon to which tey prayed for protection. On theis day sacrifices were made to the dragon and a dragon boat race was held.
The most accepted and authoritative explanation of the festival's arigin is that it commemorates Qu Yuan, a brilliant poet and a minister in charge of the Three Aristocratic Families of the State of Chu During the Warring States Perod (475-221 B.C.)
Qu Yuan was born around 340 B.C. At the age of 36 he was already holding a very importantposition in the court. As an ardent patriot and statesman, he proposed to his sovereign policies regarding diplomatic and domestic affairs. Unfortunately, his progressive views were opposed by corrupt forces, represented by Jin Shang, the king's aide, and Zhenxiu, the Queen consort. Both of them heaped calumnies on Qu yuan and in the end the king decided to banish him.
Living long years in exile, Qu Yuan wrote many beautiful odes expressing his sorrow and concern for his country and people. About 278 B.C. the troops of the State of Qin stormed the capital of Chu and the downfall of the corrupt court was expected at any moment. Despairing of saving his country and fulfilling his political ideals, te 62 years-old poet, holding a stone in his arms, drowned himself in the Miluo River near today's Changsha in Hunnan Province.
Qu Yuan's quest for a way to make his country powerful and prosperous, and his dedication to his ideals, had own the respect of the people. When news of his death came, they rushed from all quarters, rowing boats on the river in an attempt to find his body. This is supposed to be the beginning of the custom of rowing dragon boat on this day. The custom spread until today, at the time every year, dragon boat races take place on rivers and lakes all over the land.
An old writing says, "Qu Yuan threw himself in the Miluo River on May 5 by the lunar calendar and the people of Chu mourned him. Every year at this time they threw bamboo tubes filled with rice into the river as an offering to him". During the reign of the Han Emperor Guangwu (A.D. 25-56), a man by the name of Ou Hui, from Changsha, happened to see a man near the river who said that he was Minister in charge of the Three Aristocratic Families - Qu Yuan's old post. "It is all very well for you to offer me sacrifices," this mansaid to Ou Hui, "but most of them are stolen and devoured by the dragon in the river. In the future, then, please wrap them in chinaberry, leaves and tie them up with colored threads. The dragon is afraid of these two things and thus will never touch them. " The people did as they were told, and this is how zhongzi- the delicious pyramid-shaed dumpling made of glutious rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves are made for the festival today.
There is a great variety of zhongzi made with different stuffing and different flavours. Sountherners make them with pork, ham, diced chicken, sweetened bean paste. Northerners like them make with glutinous rice and millet, dates, sweetened bean paste and candied fruit.
Another interesting custom observed during the Dragon Boat Festival even today is hanging calamus and Chinese mugwort on the door and drinking wine - a practice that probably arose as a protection against the epidemic diseases that were liable to attack in May so close to the summer heat. Later the custom became connected with Qu Yuan, for he hated treacherous court officials as poisonous snakes and demons. Calamus and Chinese mugwort then were kept to protect Qu Yuan's soul against these evil creatures.
Dragon-boat races have a long history in south China. It is also said to commemorate Qu Yuan.