Traditional Chinese Festivals – Duan Wu ( 端午 )
The Duan Wu ( 端午 ) Festivals falls on the fifth day of the fifth Chinese Lunar Month. This year, it will be on the 8th of June. There are actually many origins to this Festival, the most commonly excepted version is that the day is used to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan ( 屈原 ), an official and poet in the State of Chu ( 楚 ) state during the Warring States period.
Qu Yuan was a high-ranking official who opposed the Chu King’s decision to ally with Qin ( 秦 ), another power State at that time. He was subsequently banished by the King for his opposition. Year later, Qu Yuan was to commit suicide by drowning himself in the Mi-Luo River after the Capital of Chu fell to Qin in 278 BC.
When the people heard about his suicide, they raced to the river to try to recover his body. That is how the custom of holding a dragon boat race on this day began. Racers in dragon-shaped canoes accompanied by rapid drums compete against one another.
The people also threw rice dumplings into the river to feed the fishes so that they would keep away from Qu Yuan’s body. That was origin of the custom of making rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves called Zong Zi ( 粽子 ), a triangular glutinous rice ball filled with meat, nuts or bean paste and wrapped in bamboo leaves..
Parents also dressed up their children with a perfume pouch. They first sew little bags with colorful silk cloth, then fill the bags with perfumes or herbal medicines, and finally string them with silk threads. The perfume pouch will be hung around the neck or tied to the front of a garment as an ornament. They are said to be able to ward off evil.
The adults will drink Realgar Wine ( 雄黄酒 ), which can fend off evil spirits.
In addition，families will hang branches of moxa and calamus around the doors of their homes, and display portraits Zhong Kui, a traditional Guardian God against the evil forces.
All these are designed to ward off diseases and bad luck, although these practices might not be related to the death of Qu Yuan..
The Duan Wu customs are still regularly observed even after the passage of some 2,500 years. Qu Yuan’s poems showing concern for the country and the people are still found in school textbooks today.
Happy Duan Wu to all!
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