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The Dragon Boat Festival 端午節

Happy Dragon Boat Festival everyone! Besides enjoying today as a public holiday,  how much do you know of the history behind it?

The Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month every year, reflected in its Chinese name 端午節 (Tuen Ng Jit in Cantonese; Duan Wu Jie in Mandarin) which means “opening the fifth.” 

Despite the upbeat and colourful festivities that surround it, Tuen Ng is actually rooted in a sorrowful story.

As legend has it, there once was a minister and poet named Qu Yuan during the Warring States period. He lived in the kingdom of Chu and served as a high-ranking official for the Chu royal household. When his king decided to join forces with the state of Qin, which was gaining traction and power through rampant corruption, the upright Qu Yuan was against the alliance and therefore accused of treason by political enemies and the furious monarch. When the Qin state eventually turned on Chu and captured its capital city, Qu Yuan committed suicide in despair, choosing to cast himself into the Miluo River instead of living under the rule of the conquerors.

Because he was a much-admired figure in society, the people rowed out onto the river to retrieve his body, but were unable to find it. They then did the only thing they could: dropping balls of rice into the river so the fish would eat them instead of the revered Qu Yuan’s body and alternatively banging gongs and drums on their boats to scare the fish away. This was said to have sparked the tradition of dragon boating on the river, as well as the eating of rice dumplings (糉子, zong zi)

Now, speaking of rice dumplings, one of my favorite festive food, is truly a beautiful traditional craft and lovingly wrapped package of pure love.  As a lover of food and craft, I have, since last year, started to learn to make rice dumplings from various senpai, in hope to savour this tradition. Its very interesting to listen to stories told by these senpai of how they learnt to make zong zi from their mothers or grandmothers, all these memories conjure up great feelings of nostalgia. So I've promised myself that every year I will keep this tradition going, making zong zi spreading little bundles of love and joy to my dear ones, also to test and come up with different filling ingredients of savory zong zi (because I prefer eating savory).