Tatler's Guide To Celebrating Dragon Boat Festival 2021 In Hong Kong
Row Your Boat
The Dragon Boat Festivals’ longboats are inspired by boatmen who rushed to save Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), a patriotic politician and poet in the Warring States period. After facing political alienation by corrupt rulers in the court Qu Yuan threw himself an attempt to escape. For three millennia since, people have commemorated his death by rowing longboats.
Today, the ritual has taken a more cheerful turn––evolving into friendly boat competitions complete with colourful vessels and healthy rivalry. Due to ongoing social distancing regulations, the 2021 races have not been confirmed, however, The Hong Kong China Dragon Boat Association is also organizing the first dragon boat race on land on June 13, as well as an exhibition about dragon boating, that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the association in West Kowloon.
As social distancing measures and guidelines are still in place in Hong Kong, check before you leave that events are still running, and adhere to mask-wearing and social distancing measures.
Lay On The Charms
People since the Han Dynasty have worn lucky bracelets on their necks, feet or wrists during the festival for longevity, before they are discarded along with bad luck, legend says. They are made by weaving together ribbons of five different colours to echo the date of the holiday. The colours—cyan, white, red, black and yellow—represent wood, gold, fire, water and earth, as well as north, east, south, west and centre. Make a peaceful afternoon out of knotting your own.
Get Your Hands Sticky
The festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan (340BC to 278BC), a Chinese poet and politician who drowned himself in a river in a protest against corrupt rulers in the court. The people admired his patriotism and cast packets of rice called zongzi into the water for fish to eat instead of Qu’s body. Rice dumplings have been associated with Qu ever since. Over the years, recipes have become more elaborate, incorporating ingredients like mung beans, Chinese sausage, jujube, shiitake mushrooms and salted egg yolks, which are wrapped in glutinous rice then bamboo leaves, before being steamed or boiled. Recreate the unmistakable taste of the festival in your own kitchen.
One way people warded off evil spirits they believed caused disease was by cutting out the shapes of five poisonous creatures—snakes, scorpions, geckos, millipedes and toads—from colourful paper to stick on windows, doors, walls and sometimes children’s arms. As well as crafting your own animal decorations, you can also design your own paper dragon boats for a race in a bathtub or pond using paper-folding techniques found online.
In the past, some people believed drinking realgar wine and using it to paint the Chinese character “king” on children’s foreheads would ward off pests, poison, disease and evil spirits. Unfortunately, realgar wine is actually poisonous and can contain high levels of arsenic, which is linked to a host of cancers. While some regions cling to the deadly practice, most places in China have moved away from it.
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Perfume And Blossoms For Luck
The five-coloured bracelets and paper art aren’t the only lucky dragon boat talismans. Traditionally, ladies carried scented sachets containing dahurian angelica and clove, and mothers would hang produce like small peppers, cherub plants and cucumbers on babies because it was believed these protected against plague. Chinese people also hang wormwood and sweet flag flowers on their doors or windows to shun bad luck.
The Magical Standing Egg
In Taiwan, some temples and department stores organise annual egg balancing contests. Some people believe that the chance of standing an egg upright is greatest at noon on Dragon Boat Festival, although scientific research has confirmed that egg-balancing is actually possible throughout the year and is not connected to the gravitational force of the moon or sun.
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