Today is Dumpling Festival (端午节) otherwise known as the Dragon Boat Festival. This festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Lunar calendar (五月初五).
My family was never big on festivals, we didn’t practice most of the Chinese traditions, except Chinese Lunar New Year and Mid-autumn Festival.
Now, with a family of my own, I hope my child will come to appreciate the Chinese traditions and culture (at least understand how the festival came about). I’m embarrassed to say that I knew most of the details only after reading a book catered for children on the festival. I’m sure this won’t be my last.
This week, I summarized the story to Hannah as we looked through the pictures of the book. Just today, Hannah narrated the story back to me. It was delightful to hear what she had understood (however limited vocabulary she has).
Before bedtime, she said, “Poet, Qu Yuan, throw dumpling in sea, row boat, 端午节”. She caught the general bits of the story. That’s all good with me 🙂
P/s: The author’s afterthought in his book caught my attention and got me thinking. He said that one’s life should be enriching and purposeful. All of us ought to have goals and ideals we wish to attain; striving to make a difference.
Qu Yuan’s aspiration to achieve harmony among his fellow men, and stability for his country is an example for us all. That is the essence of the Dumpling Festival. (My apologies, my poor translation doesn’t do the author’s insight justice!)
The Dumpling Festival commemorates a patriotic poet, Qu Yuan (屈原), who was also an outstanding ideologist and statesman in the Chu Court. He was trusted by the King Huai of Chu and was given the title of “Zuo Tu” (左徒) in the cabinet. “Zuo Tu” was a position right after the prime minister. Qu Yuan advocated for an allegiance with the state of Qi (since it was the richest state).
Sadly, the ministers and noblemen who envied or felt threatened of Qu Yuan’s position and proposition, made false accusations against him and instigated Qu Yuan’s dismissal from his office.
Without Qu Yuan, the Chu Court was thrown into confusion. King Huai was lured into the state of Qin and died as a prisoner there. The successor, King Huai’s son was fatuous and pursued a pro-Qin policy. Qu Yuan was later sent into exile, and the state of Chu fell into the hands of Qin. Qu Yuan was then 62.
Seeing the fall of his state, Qu Yuan composed many poems to express his grief and his love for his country. One of his greatest works was, “Li Sao” (离 骚) also known as “The Lament”. Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Mi Luo River in the Hunan Province.
When the people of Chu found out about Qu Yuan’s death, they rowed about the river in search for his body. They threw glutinous rice dumplings to prevent Qu Yuan’s body from being eaten by fish. This is how the Dumpling Festival and the custom of rowing dragon boats and eating dumplings came about.