Long long ago in a land far far away, there was a wise and humble man named Qu-Yuan (Julian).
Qu-Yuan was a loyal best friend and most trusted adviser to King Huai during the Zhou Dynasty. They were bff. The kingdom did well under the leadership of King Huai and Qu-Yuan, the common people prospered and were happy.
The Kings other counselors however, were not. They began to grow jealous of the Kings relationship with Qu and started to spread rumors about him and told the king he could not be trusted. At first the king did not believe them, but soon the other advisers had corrupted him so much he forced Qu into exile. While in exile Qu was very sad and wrote a ton of patriotic poetry about his love for China and the common man.
The kingdom fell into a dismal state of corruption without Qu and was soon overtaken by neighboring warlord Qin and the king was captured and killed.
When Qu heard the news about his friends death he was so upset he committed suicide. He tied a rock to himself and jumped into the Ming River. When the people heard he did this they got on their boats and raced along the river trying to find his body. They threw Zhongzi (Dong-zi rice dumplings) into the river in hopes that the fish would eat the dumplings and not his body, but his body was never found.
Today Qu-Yuan’s patriotism and devotion to China is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month by dragon boat racing and making zhongzi (and eating it instead of throwing it into the river).
It is now known as Dragon Boat Festival, or Double Fifth Festival. It is celebrated in Taiwan, Hong Kong and unofficially in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as China of course. Other traditions include standing an egg at noon for good luck and making and wearing sachets to ward off evil spirits and bad luck.
Interestingly I read that this holiday was heavily promoted and the story manipulated by Confucian officials who changed the date of Qu-Yuan’s death to coincide with holidays from other religions that threatened to out popularize Confucianism at one point in China’s history. Hmm sounds a little Caesar-esque to me, probably where our western Julius got the idea from. Anyway now it is a fun family holiday that celebrates socialistic based politics and Chinese Patriotism.
The fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar fell on today Monday June 2nd. For me that meant a three day weekend and a trip to Taroko Gorge that would be packed full of Chinese tourists. But more on the weekend later, for now;Duānwǔ jié kuàilè!端午节快乐! Happy Dragon Boat Festival!