Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwujie) is a traditional festival typically celebrated in June, on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar year. This year the the festival falls on Thursday 25th June 2020.

We’re delighted to share a short introduction to this very special cultural celebration, written by Ricefield Arts volunteer Sherry.

Dragon Boat Festival is one of the four traditional Chinese festivals. According to the earliest historical materials, the original purpose of the Dragon Boat Festival was to ward off the evil spirits of the fifth lunar month, which is considered an unlucky month, always bringing natural disasters and illnesses. In addition, five poisonous creatures (green snakes, centipedes, scorpions, geckos and toads), together with dead people’s ghosts, are most likely to appear on the 5th of May. To get rid of bad luck, people hang Chung Kuei’s portraits on the door, drink Hsiung Huang Wine, bath in Moxa and wear fragrant sachets. People believe this grand celebration can protect them from evil and disease for the rest of the year.

Dragon Boat Racing at Glasgow Canal Festival in 2018

Another most popular origin story of the Dragon Boat Festival is centred around a respected government official named Chu Yuan, who threw himself into the Mi Lo River because of being tricked and becoming disfavoured by the emperor. The local people admired and respected him so much that they rushed into their boats to search for his body and they threw rice into the water so that fish and river dragons would not tear his body. Today, in memory of Chu Yuan, people take part in dragon boat racing and eat rice dumplings. Making and sharing rice dumplings is still the main family activity. Sticky rice triangular dumplings are loaded with jujube paste, bean paste, pork, ham, abalone, egg yolk, all wrapped in a large leaf and tied with string. Ancient poet Su Tungpo wrote a line for his favourite waxberry-stuffed rice dumplings, which is a flavour that cannot be found anymore (不独盘中见卢橘,时于粽里得杨梅). It is hard to imagine how it tastes; but it seems like in terms of eating, people in Song dynasty were much smarter than us.

Making zongzi rice parcels at Wing Hong Elderly Centre in 2019