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Happy Dragon Boat Festival

Wong Shu Lee  


  June 14, 2021

Today is the Dragon Boat Festival. Besides eating rice dumplings, the Chinese community usually celebrates the festival by running dragon boat races. But do you know why this festival is celebrated? 


The renowned Dragon Boat Festival, also known as DuanWu (端午), falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. It commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet and minister known for his patriotism and contributions to classical poetry and who eventually became a national hero. 


Qu Yuan lived during the time of China‘s first feudal dynasties and supported the decision to fight against the powerful state. Though his actions led to his exile, he wrote in order to show his love for the country. Legend has it that Qu Yuan felt such remorse after the capture of his country’s capital that, after finishing his final poem, he waded into the Mi Lo River in today’s Hunan province as a form of protest and despair to the corruption surrounding him. 


Upon hearing news of this tragic attempt, the local people who admired him raced out in their boats to save him, or at least retrieve his body. This is said to have been the origin of dragon boat races. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan's body. This is said to be the origin of rice dumplings. 


Another origin of the Dragon Boat Festival: Before the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.), the fifth month of the lunar calendar was regarded as a bad month and the fifth day of the month like a bad day. 


Poisonous animals will appear starting from this day such as snakes, centipedes, and scorpions. At the same time, it is believed that people may get sick easily after this day. Therefore, during the Dragon Boat Festival, people try many ways to avoid bad luck. 


For example, people paste pictures of the five poisonous creatures on the wall and stick needles in them. People also make paper cuttings of the five creatures and wrapped these around the wrists of their children. Big ceremonies and performances developed from these practices in many areas, making the Dragon Boat Festival a day for getting rid of disease and bad luck.


Decorating doors by hanging wormwood and calamus plants is an important ritual of the Dragon Boat Festival. People believe that doing so will drive evil spirits and diseases away. Besides, many people would also make incense bags and carry them around to protect themselves from diseases. 


Today, in the spirit of the Dragon Boat Festival, we would like to wish everyone peace and health. Please check your My Sejahtera apps frequently to ensure you don’t miss your vaccination appointments. 


Let’s fight the virus together! 


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