Dragon Boat Festival (18th century)
|Official name||Dragon Boat Festival (端午節)
Dragon Boat Festival (端午節)
Tuen Ng Festival (端午節)
|Also called||Duanyang (端陽節)
Double Fifth Festival (雙五節)
Dragon Boat Festival (龍舟節)
Fifth Month Festival (五月節)
Fifth Day Festival (五日節)
Dumpling Festival (肉粽節)
|Observances||Dragon boat racing, consumption of xionghuangjiu and zongzi|
|Date||5th day of the 5th lunar month|
|2013 date||June 12|
|2014 date||June 2|
|Related to||Children's Day, Dano, Tết Đoan Ngọ, Yukka Nu Hii|
|Literal meaning||Opening the Seventh
|Dragon Boat Festival|
|Simplified Chinese||龙船节 / 龙舟节|
|Traditional Chinese||龍船節 / 龍舟節|
|Double Fifth Festival
Fifth Month Festival
Fifth Day Festival
|Literal meaning||Pork Zongzi Festival|
|Portuguese||Festividade do Barco-Dragão|
The Dragon Boat or Duanwu Festival is a traditional and statutory holiday originating in China.
The festival now occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese calendar, the source of its alternate name, the Double Fifth Festival. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, so the date varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. In 2012, it fell on June 23; in 2013, on June 12; and in 2014, it will occur on June 2. The focus of most celebrations involves eating zongzi (sticky rice dumplings), drinking realgar wine (雄黃酒, xiónghuángjiǔ), and racing dragon boats.
The sun is considered to be at its strongest around the time of summer solstice, as the daylight in the northern hemisphere is the longest. The sun, like the Chinese dragon, traditionally represents masculine energy, whereas the moon, like the phoenix, traditionally represents feminine energy. The summer solstice is considered the annual peak of male energy while the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, represents the annual peak of feminine energy. The masculine image of the dragon was thus naturally associated with Tuen Ng .
The usual English name for the holiday, "Dragon Boat Festival", directly translates two alternate Chinese names for the holiday, Lóngchuánjié and Lóngzhōujié.
The official Chinese name of the festival is 端午节 on the mainland and 端午節 on Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao. This is pronounced variously in different Chinese dialects. In Mandarin, it is romanized as Duānwǔjié on the mainland and Taiwan; in Cantonese, it is romanized as Tuen1 Ng5 Jit3 on Hong Kong and Tung1 Ng5 Jit3 on Macao. All of these names (lit. "Opening the Seventh") refer to its original position as the first seventh-day (午日, Wǔrì) in the fifth month (五月, Wǔyuè) of the traditional Chinese calendar, which was also known as 午 (Wǔ). Both the People's Republic and the Republic of China use "Dragon Boat Festival" as the official English translation of the holiday, while Hong Kong calls it the "Tuen Ng Festival" and Macao calls it "Dragon Boat Festival (Tun Ng)" in English and Festividade do Barco-Dragão (Tung Ng) in Portuguese.
Among Malaysian, Singaporean, and Taiwanese Hokkien speakers, the festival is also known as the "Fifth Month Festival", the "Fifth Day Festival", and the "Dumpling Festival". In Singapore, it is known in Malay as Pesta Kapal Naga and in Tamil as Nākak Kappal Pantayam (நாகக் கப்பல் பந்தயம்), both meaning "Dragon Boat Festival".
The story best known in modern China holds that the festival commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty. A cadet member of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry. Twenty-eight years later, Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.
It is said that the local people, who admired him, raced out in their boats to save him or at least retrieve his body. This is said to have been the origin of dragon boat races. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan's body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi.
Despite the modern popularity of the Qu Yuan origin theory, in the former territory of the state of Wu, the festival commemorated Wu Zixu (died 484 BC). Wu Zixu was a loyal advisor whose advice was ignored by the king to the detriment of the kingdom. Wu Zixu was forced to commit suicide by the king Fuchai, with his body thrown into the river on the fifth day of the fifth month. After his death, in places such as Suzhou, Wu Zixu is remembered during the Duanwu Festival to this day.
Although Wu Zixu is commemorated in southeast Jiangsu and Qu Yuan elsewhere in China, much of Northeastern Zhejiang including the cities of Shaoxing, Ningbo and Zhoushan celebrates the memory of the young girl Cao E (曹娥, AD 130–143) instead. Cao E's father Cao Xu (曹盱) was a shaman who presided over local ceremonies at Shangyu. In 143, while presiding over a ceremony commemorating Wu Zixu during the Duanwu Festival, Cao Xu accidentally fell into the river. Cao E, in an act of filial piety, decided to find her father in the river, searching for three days trying to find him. After five days, she and her father were both found dead in the river from drowning. Eight years later, in 151, a temple was built in Shangyu dedicated to the memory of Cao E and her sacrifice for filial piety and, to this day, a tributary of the Qiantang River is named after her.
Some modern researchers suggest that the stories of Qu Yuan or Wu Zixu were superimposed on a pre-existing holiday tradition. The promotion of these stories over the earlier lore of the holiday seems to have been encouraged by Confucian scholars, seeking to legitimize and strengthen their influence at a time when other belief systems were seen as gaining influence in China.
The deaths (and lives) of both Qu Yuan and Wu Zixu were recorded in Sima Qian's Shiji, completed 187 and 393 years after the events, respectively. While Sima Qian gave high praise to both characters, there is no evidence showing any link between the historic account of these characters in Shiji and the popularity of the festival in their names.
Many traditional rituals[clarification needed] of the Duanwu Festival emphasize the avoidance of disease. The desire to prevent health hazards associated with the mid-summer months may have been the primary original motive behind the holiday.[according to whom?]
Another theory, advanced by Wen Yiduo, is that the Duanwu Festival had its origins in dragon worship. Support is drawn from two key traditions of the festival: the tradition of zongzi, or throwing food into the river, and dragon boat racing. The food may have originally represented an offering to the dragon king, while dragon boat racing naturally reflects reverence of the dragon and the active yang energy associated with it. This combines with the tradition of visiting friends and family on boats.
Another suggestion[by whom?] is that the festival celebrates a widespread feature of east Asian agrarian societies: the harvest of winter wheat. Offerings were regularly made to deities and spirits at such times: in the ancient Yue, dragon kings; in the ancient Chu, Qu Yuan; in the ancient Wu, Wu Zixu (as a river god); in ancient Korea, mountain gods (see Dano (Korean festival)). As interactions between different regions increased, these similar festivals eventually merged into one holiday.
The festival was long marked as a festival culturally in China and is a public holiday in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. However, the People's Republic of China government, established in 1949, did not officially recognize Duanwu as a public holiday. Beginning in 2005, the government began to plan for the re-recognition of three traditional holidays, including Duanwu. Since 2008, Duanwu has been celebrated not only as a festival but also a public holiday in the People's Republic of China. It is unofficially observed by the Chinese communities of southeast Asia, including Singapore and Malaysia. Equivalent and related official festivals include Children's Day in Japan, Dano in Korea, and Tết Đoan Ngọ in Vietnam.
Other common activities include hanging up icons of Zhong Kui (a mythic guardian figure), hanging mugwort and calamus, taking long walks, and wearing perfumed medicine bags. Other traditional activities include a game of making an egg stand at noon (this "game" is one that if you make the egg stand at exactly 12.00 noon you will have luck for the next year), and writing spells. All of these activities, together with the drinking of realgar wine, were regarded by the ancients as effective in preventing disease or evil and promoting health and well-being.
In the early years of the Republic of China, Duanwu was celebrated as "Poets' Day" due to Qu Yuan's status as China's first known poet. The Taiwanese also sometimes conflate the spring practice of egg balancing with Duanwu.
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