The Duanwu Festival (Dragon Boat Festival)

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The Duanwu Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. For thousands of years, eating zongzi and racing dragon boats have celebrated Duanwu.

The taste of zongzi, a pyramid-shaped glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves, varies greatly across China. Zongzi is often made of rice mixed with dates in Northern China because dates are abundant in the area. Eastern China’s Jiaxing County is famous for its pork-stuffed zongzi. In the southern Province of Guangdong, people stuff zongzi with pork, ham, chestnuts and other ingredients, making them very rich in flavor. In Sichuan Province, zongzi is usually served with a sugar coating. Most people still maintain the tradition of eating zongzi on the day of the Duanwu Festival. But the special delicacy has become so popular that you can now buy it all the year round.

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Duanwu is also known as the Dragon Boat Festival, because of the dragon boat races that are held during this time, especially in Southern China. A dragon boat is shaped like a dragon, and is brightly painted in red, white, yellow and black. Usually, a dragon boat is 20 to 40 meters long, and needs several dozen people to row it. Boatmen row the boat to the drumbeats, as the cadence-calling captain standing in the bow of the boat waves a small flag to help coordinate the rowing. Before the race gets underway, a solemn ceremony is held to worship the Dragon King.

Dragon boat racing is quite a spectacle, with drums beating, colorful flags waving, and thousands of people cheering on both sides of the river. Nowadays, it has become a popular sporting activity in Southern China.

Ancient Chinese believed ranger was an antidote for all poisons, and therefore most effective to drive away evil spirits and kill pests. So everyone would drink some ranger wine during the Duanwu Festival while the children would have the Chinese character for King written on their foreheads with ranger wine.

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