Since two thousand five hundred years, villagers in Southern China have participated in the annual Duanwu Festival. This is a religious celebration that is highlighted by a racing ritual, which is now known as Dragon Boat Racing. This centuries old celebration is held annually on the fifth day of the fifth lunar calendar and the word Duanwu literally means double fifth. Because the date of the festival is based on the traditional Chinese calendar system, which is a combination of the solar and lunar cycles, it is now celebrated in the month of June and sometimes in May or July on the Gregorian calendar. It coincides with the Summer Solstice when the the sun and the dragon are considered to be most potent. The Duanwu is a Chinese folk custom that is as old as the Olympic games in ancient Greece. It is an important celebration in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and other East Asian countries with significant Chinese population.

Origin Of The Duanwu Festival

At the Yangzhou museum in China, a Tang Dynasty dragon boat bears witness to the celebration of the Duanwu Festival by generations of Chinese. Dragon boat racing traces its origin in the southern rice bowl of ancient China, where anthropologists believe, early races started in the banks of Dongting Lake and Yangtze river. The ancient ritual started as a form of religious veneration to the dragon, the luckiest animal in the Chinese Zodiac, which is believed to be the ruler of the rivers, lakes, seas, clouds, mist and rain. It is celebrated at a time when farmers have to transplant rice seedlings in their wet paddy fields for cultivation.

Another origin of the Duanwu Festival tells the story of poet Qu Yuan, a court official who lived during the tumultuous Warring States period in 475-221 BC. As minister in the southern Chinese state of Chu, he was a loyal counselor to the king and was slandered by other jealous ministers. The king banished Qu Yuan and it is believed that he wrote his collection of poetry, Songs of the South (Chuci), during his exile. Believed to be one of the greatest poetry collection in early Chinese literature, these poems express his love for the state and lament its uncertain future. In 278 B.C., Chu was on the verge of invasion by the neighboring Qin state. Qu Yuan committed a ritual suicide to protest against corruption in Chu and the people rushed to the river in their oats. Beating their drums and splashing the water with their paddles, they tried to save him, believing this will keep the fish and evil spirits away. They also scattered rice into the water to feed the fish and prevent them from devouring Qu Yuan. His spirit is said to have later appeared to friends to tell them that the rice was devoured by a large river dragon. He then instructed his friends to wrap some rice into three-cornered silk packages to drive the dragon away. Since this time, people remember his death every year by preparing zongzi, which is sticky rice wrapped in leaves, and holding dragon boat races.

Video Perfect Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival 2013 will fall on Wednesday, June 12th,, so film enthusiasts can now prepare their cameras to take videos of the many facets of the video perfect dragon boat festival. With boat races happening all over Taiwan, there will be a lot of opportunities for film artists to record the event and take long medium and close up shots of the paddlers and the crowd. The Taipei international dragon boat race is yet another option not only to take part of this centuries old tradition but also to hone one’s skills with the video camera.

In China, Jinji Lake will be one of the locations for the Dragon Boat Festival 2013. Soak up in the atmosphere and get ready to aim the video camera as various teams vie to be hailed as the fastest dragon boat this year. Position yourself as soon as the dragon boat maneuvers into position, the stroke gong sounds and the drum beats start to fill the air. Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong is another location to get excellent footage of the colorful dragon boats and its paddlers in the open, mixed and women and fancy costume race. And remember that the Duanwu is more than just the dragon boat festival, it is a religious and cultural tradition that has survived through thousands of years.

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