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Dragon Boat Festival Activities Expanded

The Double Fifth Festival--more commonly known as the Dragon Boat Festival--is getting some extra attention this year.

In addition to the popular tradition of dragon boat races, a variety of activities are planned across the country to celebrate the festival, held every year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This year, that falls on June 22.


More than 100 noted poets gathered in Beijing for a three-day seminar, which ends Tuesday. They studied the poems of Qu Yuan, the patriotic poet of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), in whose honor the festival is celebrated. The poets also composed their own verses in memory of the late hero.


The capital city will also host a carnival and a seminar, both focusing on folk customs during the festival.


“I am excited about the upcoming carnival, because I used to celebrate the day by simply eating a couple of zongzi,” said Lu Ying, a 30-something Beijinger. Zongzi are glutinous rice dumplings, a favorite food associated with the festival.


In Qu Yuan’s hometown--Zigui County of central China’s Hubei Province--the First National Dragon Boat Cultural Festival will be held from June 25 to July 2.


Zheng Jiayu, a Zigui County publicity official, said the festival would feature a traditional dance contest, a poem writing competition and a series of traditional sacrificial activities in commemoration of Qu Yuan.


The Dragon Boat Festival has even won favor from websites this year.


At a number of websites, people can read the story of Qu Yuan, study his poetry and even send virtual zongzi at quyuan.netor.com.


“The variety of ways to celebrate the festival is probably connected with the increasing public awareness about preserving traditional culture,” said Lu Ying.


Wu Bing’an, vice chairman of the Chinese Folklore Society, said that the true value of cultural preservation is in maintaining its original flavor.


The Dragon Boat Festival is one of the top three traditional Chinese festivals, together with the Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival.


According to Zhang Zhongyi, an archaeologist and Qu Yuan researcher, the festival probably originated from ancient agricultural practices. Excessive rainfall in the fifth month could ruin crop seedlings, so farmers offered rice and wine to the God of Rivers, asking him to bring them a good harvest.


However, today’s traditions are more often connected with Qu Yuan.


Qu, a poet and official of the state of Chu, was removed from office and sent into exile by the Duke of Chu. Still loyal to his nation, when he heard that the country had been invaded Qu picked up a heavy stone and drowned himself in the Miluo River. It was the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.


The local folk, who loved and respected Qu, rushed to the scene in their boats to search for him. Failing to find him, they dropped dumplings of glutinous rice into the river to prevent the fishes from eating Qu Yuan’s body.


(China.org.cn, China Daily June 22, 2004)

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