Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan

By Bilguun Namsrai

 

(Update: this was written last year, including it now because the Dragon Boat Festival is coming up in June)

Taiwan has recently celebrated Dragon Boat festival. This year it was on the 20th of June. This article will give you some information about the festival and its origins.

The Taiwanese celebrate the same traditional festivals as the Chinese do in Mainland China. The Dragon Boat Festival in Chinese tradition is considered an important holiday. It began around 2,000 years ago in the southern part of China. According to the Chinese Lunar calendar, the dragon boat holiday takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month.

The boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival are traditional customs related to ancient history in China. The Dragon has a very symbolic meaning for the Chinese people. Traditionally, the dragon symbolizes strength and power. In particular, people in China believe that the dragon controls water, rainfall, hurricanes, floods and also commands the wind.

During the festivities people eat zhongzi, (Chinese 粽子) which is sticky rice wrapped in bamboo. It’s the most popular traditional food on Dragon Boat day. (Zhongzi photo credit by Matt Wei)

zhongzi

There are many different types of zhongzi with different flavors in Taiwan.

Besides eating zhongzi, children also wear perfume pouches. It is an ancient belief that perfume pouches protect children from evil spirits. So during this festival day, parents decorate their children with pouches. Nowadays, these perfume pouch is designed in various style and colors.

Another special custom is hanging mugwort leaves and calamus at the top of a door of one’s home. Since the Dragon Boat Festival is held during the summer, having mugwort and calamus is especially useful. People believe that the aroma of calamus and mugwort can repel insects.

In Taiwan, the main and most important activity on this day is boat-racing competitions between colleagues and friends. (Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/laikolosse)

DragonBoat_Boat

Have you ever wondered why the dragon boat festival is celebrated or how it came about? There are a lot myths related to the dragon boat festival day. The most famous myth is related to one famous patriotic poet.

Popular myth: Commemorating the Legend of Qu Yuan

A long time ago, there was a famous poet and minister named Qu Yuan. He lived in the State of Chu (Hubei Province, China) from 340- 278BC. Qu Yuan was a member of the Chu family and he served as an official minister to King Huai of Chu.

Qu Yuan was exiled from the State of Chu for a crime he did not commit. He was reinstated by King Huai and sent on a diplomatic mission to the State of Qi to try and repair the strained relationship between the reigning kings of Chu and Qi. He was not successful.

In protest against the corruption of his beloved home state, the great poet committed ritual suicide by holding a rock and wading into the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Qu Yuan, who was loved by the people of his state, searched frantically for his body in the deep waters of the river, but they were unable to find him. They launched boats into the water and threw bunches of rice into the river to feed the fishes. They believed that Qu Yuan’s body would not be eaten if the fishes were full. This is one of the reasons why people celebrate Dragon Boat Festival and why they eat zhongzi.


 

 

bilguunAbout the Author:

Bilguun Namsrai is a Mongolian student who has been studying in Taipei, Taiwan since 2012. She is a member of the Foreign Students in Taiwan and is a part-time writer for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce blog.

This article has been modified from the original version, which can be found at: cancham.tw