Facts of Dragon Boat Festival
Chinese festivals are usually associated with special foods as well as fun (“heat and noise”). On this festival Chinese people prepare and eat Zongzi, and the excitement is provided by dragon boat race – hence the English name for the holiday. To understand the Dragon Boat Festival, and most things Chinese, you have to know a little ancient history.
Quyuan’s poem “Li Sao” written about his own life and other important ones are all filled with his deep love for his country. At last, however, he was so discourage that he had to end his life by throwing himself into the Miluo River. It is said that the people rushed out in their boats to try to save him when they heard the terrible news, but it was too late. Also, they were so sad that they threw rice in the water to fee Quyuan’s spirit, so now we can see the dragon boat races and have a kind of Chinese food named “Zongzi” for us to entertain friends, especially children, during the Dragon Boat Festival.
It is tradition to eat Zongzi, pyramid-shaped dumplings made of sticky rice wrapped in bamboo or red leaves, with different fillings added for interest. According to one popular story, such dumplings were thrown into the river as food for the fish and shrimp to keep them from eating Quyuan’s body. These dumplings now are boiled and eaten on the holiday. Suzhou in Jiangsu Province and Ningbo and Jiaxin in Zhejiang Province are known for their Zongzi with date and sweet bean paste, ham, or bacon filling. Beijing is famous for date and preserved fruit fillings. They are made in various shape, three-or four-cornered, or in the shape of a pillow, ax, ox horn and pagoda. The largest ones may weigh half a kilogram. For more than 2,000 years, people not only in China but also in Southeast Asia, Japan and Vietnam have maintained the tradition of eating Zongzi on the Dragon Boat Festival.
Inserting Mugwort at the Door Side
Chinese mugwort was considered a magic herbal medicine to cure heat and damp related disease in ancient time. As a result, mugwort became a legendary panacea to idol. According to the Chinese local chronicles, “Use cattail on the Dragon Boat Festival and insert mugwort at the door side prevent bad luck and get rid of illness”, and “paste cattail and mugwort paper cow on the door on the Dragon Boat Festival keeps sickness away. “In the fifth lunar month, every household started hanging red ornaments, putting out cattail dragon or mugwort tiger, and decorating windows with auspicious red paper toad. Young girls cut out letter “Fu” in layers for good luck; and small kids wore bright red toad made of broomcorn, garlic, and other plants to ease the heart of the summer and keep off disease. These customs are still widely practiced today as folk festivities on the Dragon Boat Festival.