A Traditional Story of Duan Wu Jie
Duanwu Festival, also known as Dragon Boat Festival and the Double Fifth, is a traditional and statutory holiday originating in China and associated with a number of East Asian and Southeast Asian societies. In Mandarin, it is known by the name Duānwǔ Jié(端午节). The festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar on which the Chinese calendar is based. This is the source of the alternative name of Double Fifth. This year, this falls on June 23. The focus of the celebrations includes eating the rice dumpling zongzi (粽子),hanging calamus and humilis leaves, drinking realgar Chinese wine xionghuangjiu, and racing dragon boats.
The Duanwu Festival is believed to have originated in ancient China. Today, the best known story of origin holds that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BCE – 278 BCE) of the ancient state of Chu, in the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty. A descendant of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance; he was accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin conquered the capital of Chu. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. It is said that the local people, who admired him, dropped sticky rice triangles wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river to feed Qu Yuan in the afterlife. The rice was wrapped so that fish would not eat the rice meant to be eaten in Qu Yuan’s afterlife. This is said to be the origin of zongzi. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.
The story of Qu Yuan shows us the legend of a tasty glutinous rice dumpling called Zongzi, a popular specialty consumed during the Dragon Boat Festival. Today’s Zongzi is made by a serving of rice wrapped in leaves and tied together with string. There are a lot of different kinds of Zongzi, each with its own particular flavor, shape, and type of leaf for wrapping. Zongzi is usually four-sided with pointed, rounded ends, or pyramid shapes. Sometimes it is in the shape of a cone or cylinder. The glutinous rice mixture is wrapped in leaves of wild rice, palm or bamboo. Bamboo-leaf Zongzi is a specialty of South China.
As for flavor, the Beijing style is the sweetest, with coarse bean paste. Guangdong Zongzi is either sweet-tasting, with walnut, date or bean, or salty with filling ham, egg, meat, roast chicken.
After learning the story and culture about Dragon Boat Festival, students have learned why we eat Zongzi for celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival. On May 21st, grade three and four students got a chance to make Zongzi on their own. Some of the parents volunteered to help in class and taught the students to make Zongzi. The students have learned several different ways to wrap the rice in the bamboo leaf and tie it with the straw. Many students learned very fast and had fun with it. They even wanted to make a few more for their families.
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