Sunday, June 8, 2008
Dragon Boat Festival
Today is Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Jie.
In places like Hong Kong there are dragon boat races and I thought Beijing wouldn't have any since it's landlocked. But apparently people paddled boats in the capital's Longtanhu Park.
I took some friends from out of town to eat Peking Duck of course, and the restaurant gave us small servings of zongzi, or rice dumplings with red bean. It was served cold with a bit of sugar.
The story of the Dragon Boat Festival goes back to the Warring States period (475-221 BC) when the patriotic poet Qu Yuan tried to give sagely advice to the emperor and was ignored. And because his suggestions were not taken, the kingdom was later conquered and in despair he jumped into the Miluo River in central Hunan.
When the villagers heard the news about Qu, they raced in their dragon boats to try to save him. And in order to prevent the fish from eating his body, the villagers threw rice dumplings into the water.
This year for the first time, the festival in China is a three-day holiday.
And interestingly today is exactly two months until the Olympics.
However, there isn't as much frenzied excitement about the Games compared to before May 12 when the Sichuan earthquake struck.
A colleague I talked to says this watershed moment has changed his friends' lives. They have begun re-evaluating their lives, thinking more about helping others, paying more attention to the environment and reconsidering what they want to do for their careers.
He didn't mean to be disrespectful to the dead, but that the earthquake was a wake-up call for all Chinese to realize life is so fragile and we must do everything we can to live life to the fullest.
They are quickly coming around to what us in the West are so hung up about -- the meaning of life.
And hopefully they will be more keen about pursuing the truth and facing up to reality. While Qu Yuan may have been a coward for committing suicide, he tried to give advice to his emperor to save the kingdom. Sometimes the truth hurts, but we all learn so much more from it for the future.