Dragon Boat Festival
In Penang, the Dragon Boat Festival is traditionally celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. To many of us, the Dragon Boat Festival is an event that gets many paddlers and boat racers all hyped out, but, do you know that the origins of Dragon Boat Festival dates all the way back to 2000 years ago and the festival commemorates the death of a great poet and renowned advisor from the Warring States period?
Qu Yuan was a trusted counselor in the Kingdom of Chu and he dedicated his life in building the State of Chu. During the Warring States period, China was divided into seven warring states; namely Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhou, Wei and Qin. The kingdom of Qin was the strongest among all and was ruled by Qin Shu Huang.
Being a patriotic, wise and honorable advisor, the people adored and had much admiration for Qu Yuan. However, his outstanding talents were antagonized by the corrupt officials in the court and as a result he was exiled by the emperor for proposing a strategic alliance with the State of Qi in anticipation of fending off the threat from the State of Qin. Soon, the State of Chu was captured and surrendered to the State of Qin.
Qu Yuan was despaired by the news and ended his life by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The locals took pity on him when they found out that Qu Yuan became a water spirit and threw zongzi (rice dumplings) into the river as offerings to him. According to Chinese belief, for a good harvest, the Chinese would pray to the water dragon which controls the rain. As such, symbolically the Chinese decorate their boats with carvings of the dragon while rowing their boats signifies planting of rice. With the myths, legends, stories and customs surrounding the Dragon Boat Festival, one thing is for sure, we are all reminded of the importance of loyalty and commitment to the community.