This is Areka from the Delta of 9 Dragons.
If you think the middle of the calendar year is boring in Asia, I have good news.
Not only the Lunar New Year or the Mid Autumn Festival, provide attractions and joy to the inhabitants of Asia.
When the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar arrives, the continent celebrates the Dragon Boat Festival.
Today's article will be devoted to this festival.
Because it falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, it is called the customary saint of double five in China - "wuwu".
In China, Taiwan, but also Singapore and Malaysia, so wherever the Chinese diaspora is large, we celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival.
This is the most important holiday in the traditional lunar calendar, next to the New Year's Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is a day off from work, which Asians spend with their families and young inhabitants of the continent participate in the Dragon Boat races.
Where did this tradition come from?
Dragon Boat Festival (Chinese: 龙舟 赛) has a rich history.
Let's go back a nice few thousand years, to 287 BC, to the descriptions of ancient ceremonial and ritual traditions that arose in south-central China more than 2,500 years ago.
The legend begins with the story of Qu Yuan, who was a proficient, successful government minister in one of the "Warring States" - Chu.
He was slandered by jealous state officials and banished from the country by the king. Out of disappointment with the monarch of the Chu state, and in despair with the political situation, Qu Yuan drowned in the Miluo River.
Ordinary people, hearing about this tragedy, threw themselves into the water and tried to recover his body.
Unfortunately, to no avail. They also dumped rice into the water to feed the fish, which was to prevent Qu Yuan's body from being eaten.
Local fishermen tried to find the body of the minister using boats that were in the shape of a dragon at the time.
In memory of this event, according to legend, people organize dragon boat races every year on the day of his death, and the rice balls gave rise to the traditional dish, made and eaten en masse on that day, the zongzi rice pyramids.
Qu Yuan himself has become an icon of opposition to corruption and injustice by the authorities.
It is interesting that the origin of this holiday is described differently in different Chinese provinces.
Qu Yuan is mentioned as the patron saint of Hubei and Hunan festivals. In southern China, the legend of the old man Wu Zixu who died fighting a dragon is recalled. This legend is about the Yunnan province.
We will also find a similar story about Yan Hongwo, a hero of the Dai people.
As you can see, the concepts are different. The most important thing is that this holiday has survived to this day and we can enjoy our eyes with a great fight on boats.
There is one more legend that relates to drought and epidemics that took place 1000 years ago, which strongly affected the inhabitants.
According to it, at the beginning of the hot season, every year the Chinese gathered at the bank of the Yangtze River, where they organized special rituals, thanks to which the God - the Dragon who was bringing the rains - was to wake up.
Thanks to the rainfall, abundant crops were obtained and, as a consequence, it was possible to save people from hunger. During these rituals, the townspeople competed in boats. Unfortunately, many of them died.
The Chinese believed, however, that it was a necessary sacrifice to wake this dragon ...
Currently, this holiday is no longer so dramatic.
Mainly, it brings the family around the table and the locals to watch, or more excitingly, participate in the exciting dragon boat races. Many companies are closed at this time, which allows for full celebration.
What is characteristic of the Dragon Boat Festival in Asia? I will mention three things that are directly associated with this day.
The first is yellow wine -xionghuangjiu.
The second is a traditional rice dish made of sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves or reed leaves, in the form of pyramids or cylinders - these are the famous zongzi.
The third, characteristic thing is, of course, the Dragon Boat regatta.
And I will start with that.
Preparations for the race take several weeks. Usually, these are groups of friends that form the cast of one boat. They are also often representations of universities or companies.
The boats are quite narrow, not much more than 1 m wide, and usually more than 12 m long. They are traditionally made of wood, very colorfully painted and decorated with the head and tail of a dragon. These heads and tails are mounted primarily for competitions to make the boat look dignified and awe-inspiring.
Young people without these elements are used for training so that they do not get damaged.
How many people can fit in the boat?
It depends on the region, but a typical dragon boat can accommodate 10 to 50 people.
Usually there are 22 people, i.e. 20 rowers, and a steersman who gives direction and a drummer who sets the pace. The crew has oars about 1.30 meters long at their disposal. Most often also made of wood, although nowadays I see more and more oars made of glass and carbon fibers. Safety first - safety first. All are dressed in compulsory life jackets.
Rowers sit in pairs on benches arranged in 10 rows with their faces facing the direction they are swimming. The first pair of rowers is the most important. It is she who sets the pace and manner of rowing the entire settlement.
They also have a steersman at the end of the boat with one large oar to keep the boat in the desired direction.
There is one more very important person on the boat. He's a drummer.
He supports the first pair and the rest of the rowers so that they all maintain the same rowing rhythm. The drummer sits in the bow on a chair, facing the rowers and facing the direction of swimming.
In my opinion, he is the most important person on the boat because he sets the pace for the whole settlement and this is one of the conditions for success.
The races themselves take a very different course.
The competition takes place over short distances, e.g. 250 m, but also long distances, e.g. up to 2 km. Boat crews come in all combinations.
There are male, female and mixed crews, with a minimum of eight women in the crew.
The cast of boats are also made up of teenagers. You can become a rowing machine from the age of eleven. Seniors over 40 also have their own races.
The emotions are incredible. After many weeks of training, rowers can finally have their moment of glory.
They do their best to overtake other participants of the regatta during a few or a dozen minutes of regatta (depending on the length of the track), to maintain a well-trained pace and direction.
Breathtaking view. Dozens of rowers, the sound of a drum and the helmsman's shouts, and a fast pace. In addition, a blaze of colors and extremely decorative jumping heads on the bow of each boat ...
As it turns out, this annual Chinese tradition has turned into quite a lot of sports discipline popular not only in Asia, but also among Western cultures.
Let me just say that, apart from China, also Australia, New Zealand and Poland belong to the group of 68 countries that make up the International Dragon Boat Federation and hold regular regattas.
If you have the opportunity to go to China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, but also to Singapore or Taiwan, everywhere, on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, you will get a portion of unforgettable impressions related to dragon boat racing. Anyway, to take a closer look at such a regatta, you don't have to travel far.
Poland is a country that organizes such regattas. So you can see a similar show also with us. I recommend!
Anyway, this holiday has been included in the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List since 2009.
As you can see, this quite symbolic holiday has become important from the point of view of the entire world culture.
And rightly so.
Are you hungry? Probably so.
After such an exhausting race, it's time to eat something. And since it is the Dragon Boat Festival, it will of course be traditional rice zongzi.
This is the second icon of this holiday.
Depending on the region of Asia, sticky rice balls can come in different forms. They usually take the form of a pyramid or a cylinder that can be served sweet, with candied fruit and almonds in them. It can also have a salty version, prepared from soybean mass and stuffing, made of pork ham. Traditionally, preparing for a family dinner involves making and giving each other hand-made rice pyramids wrapped in bamboo leaves.
It is true that today many people buy zongzi, but to maintain the tradition, most Asians still prepare rice at home, then wrap it in bamboo leaves, tying it with colorful string, forming zongzi pyramids or rolls.
Besides the tradition of eating these rice pyramids, there is also a tradition to throw some of them into the water as food for Qu Yuan's soul. Although some believe that we are feeding fish that could eat this poet's body.
Interpretation basically belongs to each of us. Individually.
What do these rice specialties taste like?
There are many flavours. As already mentioned, from soybean paste, sweet red beans, to spicy pork and salty, with mushrooms and peanuts. These flavours are very different and result from family tradition. For generations, families have been creating their own recipes for this perfect bundle.
Most importantly, follow the age-old tradition of celebrating the 5th day of the 5th lunar month.
And whether they will be rice balls wrapped in bamboo leaves, banana leaves or local grass, or full participation in the Dragon Boat race is not important.
Family gathering and celebration - that's the only thing that matters on this day. It is also an opportunity to scare away evil spirits ...
And of course, all kinds of amulets are the best for this, and of course, firecrackers and fireworks that are so popular and liked in Asia.
Did you know that in Viet Nam we have Mid-Year Festival - Tết Đoan Ngọ?
Interestingly, both holidays fall on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar ...
What a coincidence.
Two holidays, two different cultures but similar customs meet.
Not only is both holidays held on the same day, it is surprising, but also the fact that they have many similarities when it comes to cooking.
But more on that in a separate article, soon ...
Bye-bye, yum-yum, 下次 见