Dragon Boat Festival
It is time for the Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan and many parts of Eastern Asia. I was lucky enough to be able to walk to the races and the huge festival happening on the streets lining the canal. Before properly gorging myself on snacks (grilled squid! on a stick!), I was able to take a couple videos of the races:
Over the next few days, heats will be held all day long, with the winners moving on to the next round. Ultimately, there will be one winning team for each major city in Taiwan, with the team with the best time taking the national title.
Teams are made up of colleagues, universities, social groups, or anyone that can get a team together. They practice for weeks before the race, and there is great pride in posting a decent time.
In our book on Taiwan, Crameye is able to take part in a race, and explains the origins of the festival. He writes:
“The festival actually has an interesting origin. Apparently, there was some dude named Qu Yuan (Chew You-An) who
lived in China way back in about 300 B.C. There are a lot of versions of what happened, but the most popular goes that he
worked for an imperial court and was famous for his virtue, you know, being a real stand-up guy. Some jealous folks made up some nasty rumors about the guy and spread them around, which everyone believed. Upset, Qu Yuan walked into a river and drowned himself. That is when the people realized they made a mistake, and rode out on dragon boats to find his body. They also threw rice dumplings in the water, so the fish would eat them and not poor, ol’ Qu Yuan. Over the years, they reenacted the search, which ended up as the present day races.”
The “rice dumplings” Crameye mentioned are all over the place this time of year. Essentially, a rice dumpling (or zongzi 粽子) is sticky rice filled with chestnuts, dates and other goodies, wrapped in bamboo leaves and then either boiled or steamed. Do not eat if you are on a diet.