The Dragon Boat Festival or Dianwu (Double 5)!
On the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, the Dianwu (‘Double 5’) or Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated. A lunar calendar is used to determine the start date (the first New Moon of the year marks the start of the first Lunar Month and also Chinese New Year’s Day) and June 6 is the closest British equivalent for 2011. In o Around this day, teams of racers on Los Dragon Boats vigorously compete against each other on local lakes or waterways. With (typically) a 22-person crew consisting of 20 rowers, a helmsman, and a drummer/helmsman, the Dragon-tested boat slices through the water as if equipped with powerful engines.
The Dragon Boat Festival dates back more than 2,000 years, to the last years of the Zhou dynasty (1045-256 BC). Great strides were being made in public hygiene, and protection against disease was a rapidly developing area of activity. During the summer, malaria and other insect-borne diseases spread easily. To drive away pestilence, dragon boats allowed people to discover and eradicate insect larvae, nests and eggs, which hatch almost at this time on the banks of rivers and swamps (the Chinese also invented insecticide to help them with this!) ! The search for water was accompanied by similar efforts on land, including in the immediate vicinity of homes. After all the hard work, Dragon Boat Racing was part of the festival celebrations that followed.
Qu Yuan and Wu Zizu
During this period, two individuals, the Chinese poet Qu Yuan, exiled from the corrupt Zhou court, and the official Wu Zizu, drowned, separately in incidents widely separated in time but arising from a common malaise. Both did so after protesting, to draw attention to the degradation of waterways, irrigation systems and social conditions. Many individuals depended on intensive farming for a living, and both figures despaired at the inevitable famines, epidemics, and human suffering that neglect would cause. In fact, Qu Yuan’s premonitions proved correct and the fall of the Zhou dynasty led him to commit suicide in the Miluo River.
Each time after these tragic events, to save their bodies from being eaten by fish at the places where Qu Yuan and Wu Zizu drowned (and to perpetuate their memories), people would row boats and throw small portions of ‘Zong Zi’. rice wrapped in bamboo leaves in the waters (these are now part of the ‘Festival of Foods’).
The Dragon Boat Festival brings together their two stories and their celebrations continue in their honor. This reminds successive generations of the wisdom of proactive approaches to disease control, irrigation, and the management of water systems and supplies (and how they interrelate). The Festival also highlights the dedication of honest public figures and officials to the well-being of the people they serve and represent.