Dragon Boats and Sticky Rice

Readability

Dragon Boats and Sticky Rice

China also cel­e­brated a three-​day hol­i­day over the past week­end — a fes­ti­val com­mem­o­rat­ing the story of a famous poet.

Peo­ple in Guangzhou, where I am teach­ing, packed the route along the trib­u­taries of the Pearl River as more than 100 dragon boats cruised through the city.

The fes­ti­val is a memo­r­ial of the death of the poet and politi­cian Qu Yuan (340278 B.C.) of the ancient state of Chu dur­ing the Zhou dynasty.

When the Zhou king decided to ally with the increas­ingly pow­er­ful state of Qin, the cre­ators of the Terra Cotta war­riors in Xi’an, Qu was ban­ished for oppos­ing the alliance and even accused of treason.

In exile, Qu became China’s first great poet.

Years later, the Qin cap­tured Ying, the Chu cap­i­tal. In despair, Qu com­mit­ted sui­cide by drown­ing him­self in the Miluo River.

The story goes that local peo­ple raced out in their boats to save him or at least retrieve his body. Thus, the story of the dragon boats began. When his body could not be found, the locals dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu’s body. Thus began the legacy of zongzi, or sticky rice. Hint: if you have never eaten sticky rice, you take off the leaf and the ribbon.

Smith­son­ian Mag­a­zine pro­vides some great background:

One of the most impor­tant myth­i­cal crea­tures in Chi­nese mythol­ogy, the dragon is the con­troller of the rain, the river, the sea, and all other kinds of water; sym­bol of divine power and energy…. In the impe­r­ial era it was iden­ti­fied as the sym­bol of impe­r­ial power,” writes Dem­ing An, a pro­fes­sor of folk­lore at the Insti­tute of Lit­er­a­ture, Chi­nese Acad­emy of Social Sci­ences in Bei­jing. “In people’s imag­i­na­tions, drag­ons usu­ally live in water and are the con­trollers of rain.

Dragon boat rac­ing is ascribed to orga­nized cel­e­bra­tions of begin­ning in the 5th or 6th cen­tury A.D. But schol­ars say the boats were first used hun­dreds of years ear­lier, per­haps for var­ied rea­sons. On the lunar cal­en­dar, May is the sum­mer sol­stice period, the cru­cial time when rice seedlings were trans­planted.… To ensure a good har­vest, south­ern Chi­nese would have asked the drag­ons to watch over their crops, says Jes­sica Ander­son Turner, a Hand­book of Chi­nese Mythol­ogy con­trib­u­tor. They would have dec­o­rated their boats with ornate dragon carv­ings, “and the row­ing was sym­bolic of the plant­ing of the rice back in the water,” Ander­son Turner explains.

Read more at http://​www​.smith​so​ni​an​mag​.com/​a​r​t​s​-​c​u​l​t​u​r​e​/​t​h​e​-​l​e​g​e​n​d​s​-​b​e​h​i​n​d​-​t​h​e​-​d​r​a​g​o​n​-​b​o​a​t​-​f​e​s​t​i​v​a​l​-​135634582/

The People’s Repub­lic of China did not offi­cially rec­og­nize the cel­e­bra­tion as a pub­lic hol­i­day. But the dragon boat races spread through­out the world. Since 2008, “Duanwu Jie” as it’s known in China, has been cel­e­brated not only as a fes­ti­val but also as a pub­lic hol­i­day. It’s a whole lotta fun!

China also celebrated a three-day holiday over the past weekend—a festival commemorating the story of a famous poet.

People in Guangzhou, where I am teaching, packed the route along the tributaries of the Pearl River as more than 100 dragon boats cruised through the city.

The festival is a memorial of the death of the poet and politician Qu Yuan  (340–278 B.C.) of the ancient state of Chu during the Zhou dynasty.

When the Zhou king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, the creators of the Terra Cotta warriors in Xi’an, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason.

In exile, Qu became China’s first great poet.

Years later, the Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. In despair, Qu committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.

The story goes that local people raced out in their boats to save him or at least retrieve his body. Thus, the story of the dragon boats began. When his body could not be found, the locals dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu’s body. Thus began the legacy of zongzi, or sticky rice. Hint: if you have never eaten sticky rice, you take off the leaf and the ribbon.

Smithsonian Magazine provides some great background:

“One of the most important mythical creatures in Chinese mythology, the dragon is the controller of the rain, the river, the sea, and all other kinds of water; symbol of divine power and energy…. In the imperial era it was identified as the symbol of imperial power,” writes Deming An, a professor of folklore at the Institute of Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. “In people’s imaginations, dragons usually live in water and are the controllers of rain.

“Dragon boat racing is ascribed to organized celebrations of beginning in the 5th or 6th century A.D. But scholars say the boats were first used hundreds of years earlier, perhaps for varied reasons. On the lunar calendar, May is the summer solstice period, the crucial time when rice seedlings were transplanted…. To ensure a good harvest, southern Chinese would have asked the dragons to watch over their crops, says Jessica Anderson Turner, a Handbook of Chinese Mythology contributor. They would have decorated their boats with ornate dragon carvings, “and the rowing was symbolic of the planting of the rice back in the water,” Anderson Turner explains.

Read more at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-legends-behind-the-dragon-boat-festival-135634582/

The  People’s Republic of China did not officially recognize the celebration as a public holiday. But the dragon boat races spread throughout the world. Since 2008, “Duanwu Jie” as it’s known in China, has been celebrated not only as a festival but also as a public holiday. It’s a whole lotta fun!