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Words of the Day: Duan Wu Jie (Dragon Boat Festival)

Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2010 By Ni Hao Books

The Word of the Day is 端午节,duān wǔ jié (Dragon Boat Festival). It falls on June 16th this year.

This festival originated from the story related to the poet Qu Yuan. He was a loyal minister to the emperor of the Chu state during the Warring States period, before the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang. Due of jealousy stemming from others in the court, Qu Yuan was sent to exile. While on exile, he wrote great poetries expressing his love for his country and concerns of its future. When his country, the state of Chu, was about to be conquered by other states, Qu Yuan committed suicide by jumping into the river. Once people heard of his suicide, they rushed to the river on boats trying to look for him. They drummed and splashed water trying to keep the fish from eating his body. They also threw in rice for the fish to eat. The food they threw into the water eventually became 粽子, zòng zi, which is sticky rice with various fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

There are salted 粽子 with pork, salted eggs, beans fillings, and sweet 粽子 with red bean filling. When I was young, 粽子 were only sold during 端午节, but nowadays, I can find them sold everyday at any Asian supermarket. The boats racing to save the poet with drums and paddles became the "Dragon Boat Race", which has become an international sport in recent years. In the US you can find it at many cities, such as San Francisco, Miami, and Houston.

In San Diego, there will be a small celebration at the North University Community Library on June 12th, with dancing, poetry readings, and other fun activities.


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