Oh the dragon boat! What a fantastic time to be in Asia, and in our case, in the wondrous Taiwan. This is a great festival specially if you or any of your friends is taking part of the competition. Even if you are not, you get extra holidays off, a night market that takes places during the day near your local river and Rice Dumplings, rice dumplings everywhere.
A little context
It is celebrated on the 5th of the 5th, not of May but of the lunar calendar. This is usually during late may of early June.
For years I wanted to know the story, and for years I celebrated it oblivious until this year, and without any further discussion, let me share it with you.
During the Chu dynasty, around 300 and 200 BC, there was an Emperor’s official named Qu Yuan. He was recognized minister and a poet, who was loyal and eager to keep the state honor. However, at this time, the level of corruption and jealousy was very high, and the emperor was tricked and fooled to the extent of vanishing Qu Yuan.
In protest the tied a rock to his feet and drowned himself in the middle of the river. The village people knew of Qu Yuan true heart and without thinking hoped on their boats to try to save him. The ones who couldn’t beat drums to try to keep the fish away and later scattered rice to prevent fish and other animals to feast on his body.
Thus we have the drums on the boats and the story of Zongzi (Rice Dumplings)
So if you took part of it, or any of your friends did, you may already know that it takes months of preparation and training to take part of it. I had friends you had to wake up early in the morning just to train with the team. And if you want to take it easy and just be the drummer, you are going to have a bad time, because it is one of the hardest jobs to do.
The first year I was in Taiwan, I studied Chinese and the language center organized a team of foreigners to take part. I think they still do it and it is a great opportunity to experience this millennial tradition.
During my bachelor years I had several Taiwanese classmates that took part of the competition and cheering for them makes the event even better. In 2016, I one of my good foreign friends took part of the competition and they made it to the second round. It was euphoric.
People take very seriously, sometimes training for more than a year. And what is the prize????? Honor? Pride? Maybe, but the government gives away more than NTD 1 million just on prizes. Either way, there are uncountable teams and the competition lasts for 4 days.
Here in Tainan it takes place next to the An-Ping river. In Kaohsiung is, of course, in the Love River and in Taipei is in DaJia river
The other activities.
OK. So if you do not know anybody taking part of the competition, but if you are in Taiwan you can’t miss it either way. It is part of the culture and even if you just see boats coming and going, it is an even you should go. Besides it is a great opportunity to enjoy a day-night market, and because it is almost summer, the mango season already started, and you can have a delicious Mango smoothie while walking around.
Thank you for reading!
Here is an Origami boat just for you!
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