JDragon Boat FestivalJ


May 25, 2000

Dragon Boat Festival 端午節




The Dragon Boat Festival(端午節) occurs on the fifth day of the fifth moon of the lunar calendar(陰曆). It is one of the three most important of the annual Chinese festivals. The other two are the Autumn Moon Festival and Chinese New Year.

The story of this colorful festival concerns a famous Chinese scholar-statesman named Chu Yuan(屈原) who, some three centuries before the birth of Christ, served the King of Chu(楚懷王)during the Warring States period(戰國時代). As a loyal minister, Chu Yuan at first enjoyed the full confidence and respect of his sovereign. Eventually, through the intrigues(陰謀) of his rivals(對手), he was discredited(信譽受損).

Chu Yuan was never able to regain the emperor's favor and on the fifth day of the fifth moon in the year 295 B.C.(Before Christ), at the age of 37, Chu Yuan clasped a stone to his chest and plunged into the Milo River(汨羅江) in the Hunan Province(湖南省).

Respecting the minister as an upright and honest man, the people who lived in the area jumped into their boats and rushed out in a vain search for him. This unsuccessful rescue attempt is a part of what the Dragon Boat Festival commemorates(紀念)every year.

Probably the most exciting and interesting aspect of the festival is the racing of the Dragon Boats. These races not only symbolize the people's attempt to save Chu Yuan, they also demonstrate the Chinese virtues of cooperation and teamwork.

Another activity of the Festival is the making and eating of a kind of dumpling called Tzungtzu (粽子). When it became known that Chu Yuan was gone forever, the people, living along the river, threw cooked rice into the water as a sacrifice(祭品) to their dead hero. They wrapped rice in bamboo leaves(粽葉), and stuffed it with ham, beans, bean paste(豆沙), salted egg yokes, sausages, nuts, and/or vegetables.

To the Chinese the fifth lunar moon is more than just the Dragon Boat Festival. Since antiquity(古代), they have believed that this month is a pestilential and danger-fraught(瘟疫的及充滿危險的) period. Children born in this month are said to be difficult to raise(撫養), and people tend to concentrate their efforts during this time attempting to protect their families from ills and misfortune. The day of the Dragon Boat Festival is customarily the time when cleaning and sanitation are stressed. Most families hang calamus(菖蒲)  and artemisia(艾草) above their doors, both as a decoration and as a preventive against pestilence.

Ancient folk medicines(民間藥物) such as realgar(雄黃酒)are added to the food eaten on the Festival day. This is believed to prevent disease and to promote a healthy digestive system(消化器官). The drinking of realgar in wine supposedly relieves the effects of poisons accumulated in human bodies.

The sachets (Hsiang Pao in Chinese香包) are very popular with children and they vie with each other to collect as many as possible. Children are not the only ones who collect Hsiang Pao. Older people are often given them as a symbol of respect, and they are highly prized because of the intricate(複雜的) and beautiful embroidery(刺繡) that adorns them.

The Dragon Boat Festival is an entertaining and enjoyable event. It gives the observer an opportunity to glimpse a part of the rich Chinese cultural heritage(豐富的中國文化遺產).