Today is a special day in the lunar calendar – also known as the Dumpling Festival (“Duan Wu Jie”). It is a colorful festival celebrated by Chinese worldwide on the 5th day of the 5th month of lunar calendar. It is a yearly event and during this day, the Chinese will commonly feast on dumplings (which we called “zong zi” in Chinese). Here a brief on the origin and what the festival entails.
Culturally this festival is celebrated with the dragon boat as well. As the legends has it, the story of Qu Yuan, an incorruptible minister of state during the Warring States era of China. Once a trusted advisor, he was banished by his emperor due to political intrigue and in despair, threw himself into the river and ended his life.
Because he was well-loved by the common folk, fishermen started to beat their oars against the water in a desperate attempt to stop the man-eating fish in the river from devouring his body. Others threw cooked rice wrapped in leaves into the water, in the hope that the fish would eat them instead.
This resulted in today’s dragon boat races and the dumplings – two of the most distinctive aspects of the festival today. The stories have fused well with the tradition of Chinese fishermen using dragon-shaped boats to appease river ‘dragons’, which evolved into a sport during the Han dynasty.
In the present day, many features of the ancient races remain intact -from the long and narrow boat shapes to the prows painted with dragons’ heads to the drums which set the pace for the rowers.
In Singapore, a festive atmosphere rules as participants pull furiously on their oars, leaders beat their drums, flags are waved and spectators cheer on their favourite teams.
For food lovers, this is festival where we see food stalls and hotels servings variety of dumplings and where the dragon boaters will compete on weekends in the marina bay or selected reservoirs in dragon boat festival competitions.