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Dragon Boat Festival
 duān wǔ  jié
(端    午  节)
The Dragon Boat Festival is coming up soon on June 8th, 2008. Here is a brief introduction of this traditional festival in China.

It is believed that this custom has a history dating back over 2,000 years. There are several explanations for the origin of this festival, among which the most moving story involves Qu Yuan, a devoted patriotic politician and poet.

Qu Yuan was a high official in the ancient state of Chu during the War State Period, when the state of Qin was ambitious to expand, threatening the security of Chu. At the moment of crisis, Qu Yuan put forward a reform to save the state, and the reform was against corrupt nobles. But a conspiracy was plotted against him and the emperor finally sent him into exile. When Qu Yuan heard the capital city of Chu had been conquered, he drowned himself in the Miluo River in order to commit ritual suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the era. This despair quickly spread to the people nearby. They respected him for his loyalty and rushed to the boats to search for him. At the meanwhile, they threw rice to feed fish and appease the river dragons, keeping them away Qu Yuan's body.

That day was on May 5th, according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

From then on, Chinese people has commemorated the great poet and the efforts to rescue him on the very day every year, through the eating of rice dumplings and Dragon Boat Races (赛龙舟).

Rice dumpling (粽子) is a kind of traditional food, with steamed glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves to form a pyramid. Ingredients such as beans, lotus seeds, chestnuts, pork fat and the golden yolk of a salted duck egg are often added to the glutinous rice today.

Dragon boat races are the most exciting part of this festival and draw crowds of spectators. Dragon boats are brightly painted canoes. The front is shaped like an open-mouthed dragon, and the stern is shaped like a scaly tail. A drummer and a flag catcher will stand at the front of the boat during racing. Before a dragon boat can enter the competition, it must be "brought to life" by painting the eyes of the open-mouthed dragon at the front of the boat in a sacred ceremony. Races can have any number of boats. The winner is the first team to grab a flag at the end of the course. Annual races take place all over China during this festival. In some places, in good fun, some people steal ordinary boat and transform them into dragon boats for racing. The boats are returned after the race. Instead of being annoyed, the boat owner thinks it is lucky and feels honored.

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