Dragon boat festival story: Qu Yuan & Duanwu explained – Myth Stories

Dragon boat festival story: Qu Yuan & Duanwu explained – Myth Stories


The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated around
the world, but did you know of it’s dark and tragic origins? It connects the downfall of a kingdom and
a poet’s tragic suicide to sticky rice dumplings and, off course, dragon-boats. 端午節
THE DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL EXPLAINED Greetings Mythstorians. The Dragon Boat Festival. A traditional Chinese holiday with a marvelous
name. It’s celebrated across Asia: from China,
to Indonesia. In Mandarin Chinese it is most commonly called
端午節. That’s Duānwǔ jié. This literally means “opening the fifth”
in reference to the festival’s position on the Chinese lunisolar calendar: the fifth
day of the fifth month. And while its English name rightly conjures
awesome imagery of oars and dragons, the heartbreaking legend behind it dates back more than 2000
years. THE TRAGEDY
OF QU YUAN Qu Yuan (屈原) was a senior minister in
service to 楚懷王, King Huai of Chu. Legend has it, the King allied with the state
of Qin 秦 against Qu’s advice. He labeled Qu as a traitor for his opposition
and banished him from the kingdom. Qu was an exile. He travelled across ancient China, compiling
myths and legends, and wrote some wonderful poetry. However, he still missed his homeland and
suffered from severe bouts of depression and anxiety. Whenever this happened, it is said that Qu
would walk near a well and peer inside at his reflection on the water’s surface. That same well is still said to be around
in what is now Hubei, China. Though we can’t confirm that. Years later, news would reach Qu that his
King had been overthrown by the state of Qin. Not long after, Qu made his way into the into
the Miluo river (汨羅江) and gave himself to the water, never to return. Some, however, reckon he became a water god. It is said that people rushed after him in
dragon boats, banging drums and throwing rice dumplings into the river so fish would eat
them and not Qu’s body. STICKY RICE
DUMPLINGS The making of Zongzi is a family past time
that requires all hands on deck. This food and the boat are staples of Dragon
Boat Festival. In Mandarin, these rice dumplings are called
Zongzi (粽子). They’re wrapped with bamboo leaves and contain
sticky rice and a filling. They’re typically filled with pork but other
fillings include various beans, mushrooms, eggs, nuts, chicken, scallops, red meat and
vegetables. Wrapping the rice and filling in bamboo leaves
is a skill unto itself that is passed from one generation to the next. The time needed to boil or steam them depends
on how much rice and filling is involved. RACING DRAGON BOATS To honor the memory of Qu Yuan, people also
race dragon boats every year worldwide on the date of his demise. The practise itself is thousands of years
old and is thought to have spread from ancient China all the way to Greece. The first boats were made of wood, but their
modern counterparts usually comprise lightweight materials such as carbon fiber. Today, teams usually consist of around 20
paddlers, a drummer and steersperson. Following the drummers’ beat — the heart
of the dragon — paddlers race against other teams down a waterway. The beat determines the speed, rate and cadence
of the paddlers’ stroke. The steerer stands at the back of the boat
and uses a 9 ft long oar to direct the dragon boat. Most races involve a sprint over 500m, but
there are longer ones of 1000 and 2000m. Dragon boat races happen worldwide, but in
Hong Kong, it’s a competitive sport. WHERE THE
DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL IS CELEBRATED The dragon boat festival is mostly celebrated
in Pacific Rim nations. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao all designate
it as a public holiday. Related and similar celebrations happen on
the same day in Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, as well as in South Korea and North Korea. So there you have it, that’s the low down
on the tragic and dark history behind the Dragon Boat Festival. But there’s still so much to explore, so
why not join us in the next mythical video?

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