Thursday, October 2, 2014
Dragon Boat Holiday, China
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 of Chu during the a particularly contentious warring period of the Zhou Dynasty. Through a series of unfortuante events he ended his own life in despair, but left behind many fine pieces of poetry.
The festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, so it moves around the Gregorian calendar from year to year, but is in June at some point. The masculine image of the dragon was thus naturally associated with Duanwu, whereas the phoenix is associated with women. 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. I am not clear on what is so masculine about this, but in addition to racing dragon boats the main component of celebrating is eating zongzi (pictured above--sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves) and drinking realgar wine. We did one of the two.