What do we do in Hong Kong and why?

Dragon Boat Festival 端午節

Dragon boat festival 端午節 (Dummy PY: Dune Um Jit) is this week on a Thursday, 25th of June, 2020. There are a couple of names in Chinese for Dragon Boat Festival, in Hong Kong primarily we call it 端午節, 端 (Dummy PY: Dune) means the beginning, or the tip of something, 午 (Dummy PY: Um) is the same 午as the in 午餐 (Dummy PY: Um Chan) meaning lunch, but really it means the 5th month in the chinese calendar year. So here you can interpret it as the beginning of the 5th month of the calendar year. 節 (Dummy PY: Jit) like I mentioned many times now, I feel like if there is one word you would know from my podcast is this word 節 meaning festival or in seasons 季節, it means the period of time.

Another name for Dragon Boat festival outside of Hong Kong that I heard most often was 龍舟節 (Dummy PY: Long Gel Jit), 龍 (Dummy PY: Long) means Dragon, 舟 (Dummy PY: Gel/ Jow) means boat, so quite literally it means Dragon Boat festival. Whichever you guys think its easier, because they are interchangeable, it means the same thing.

Dragon Boat Festival 端午節/ 龍舟節 is quite common around the world where there are Chinese people residing. Usually for the dragon boat festival 端午節/ 龍舟節 people watch the dragon boat race 爬龍舟 (Dummy PY: Pa Long Jow), Literally means crawl dragon boat, perhaps it is because the motion of them using the paddle on the dragon boat looks like the dragon is crawling. Some participate in the race, the kids traditionally speaking, will swim in the dragon boat water 游龍舟水(Dummy PY: Yow Long Gel Shui), really it’s just a name for swimming 游水 (Dummy PY: Yow Shui) during Dragon boat festival,游 (Dummy PY: Yow) means swim, 水(Dummy PY: Shui) means water. People also make rice dumplings, 粽 (Dummy PY: Jong), they are usually wrapped in supposedly bamboo leaves. There are many kinds of rice dumplings, 粽 (Dummy PY: Jong), generally can be put into 2 types. One is the salty type, 咸肉粽 (Dummy PY: Ham Yuk Jong) which is usually comprised of some meat, some salty eggs,some mushrooms,wrapped in some glutinous rice. The other kind is the sweet ones, 鹼水粽 (Dummy PY: Gan Shui Jong), usually wrapped inside the glutinous rice, you will find mashed beans. People usually like to dip 粽 (Dummy PY: Jong) in either soy sauce or sugar. They taste significantly different with different dippings. It depends on the person’s preference. There is also a fancier version where people put abalone, shark fins, and XO sauce (basically made with dried scallops). Yes, some people do still eat shark fins in Hong Kong, although people are more and more aware of the issues surrounding it now. Nowadays many people use replacement shark fins or green bean noodles, it has a similar texture. So this cultural practice is called 食糉 (Dummy PY: Sick Jong),食 (Dummy PY: Sick) means eat, and 糉 (Dummy PY: Jong) just now I mentioned means rice dumplings. And the practice of wrapping the rice dumplings is called 包粽 (Dummy PY: Bao Jong), 包 (Dummy PY: Bao) here means wrap, but in other contexts it can also mean bread or buns.

I am totally missing our 粽 back home in Hong Kong. People if they make their own, usually make them in bigger quantities because then they can give them to friends or family. To be honest, after perhaps the 3rd or 4th day of eating 粽 (Dummy PY: Jong), you probably won’t want to eat it for another couple of months or so. If you don’t get to make some your own or have people giving some to you, your best bet is to buy at Chinese restaurants. Sometimes restaurants even kind of coerce people into buying them.

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate this festival and all these traditions behind it?

There is a story behind this. Back in the spring and autumn period, there was this Chinese poet and politician 屈原 in English translation his name was Qu Yuan. He lived through roughly 343 BC to 278 BC. At that period of time, China was divided into 7 states. 屈原 had a very tragic story. He loved his country - (the state of Chu 楚國, large in area, now the entire Hubei, parts of Hunan, Anhui, Jiangxu, and Jiangxi)and really wanted to help. Originally he was leading the soldiers at his country and he proposed to joint forces with 齊國 the state of Qi (most of Shandong province area and parts of Henan and Hebei) to take over the state of Qin 秦國 (Now parts of Shaanxi, Ganxu and QingHai Province). Unfortunately at the time, the royalties strongly opposed his idea. He felt like his skills and talents were not valued, eventually he was forced to leave his position and got banished from his city and state. Not long after, the state of Qin (the one he originally proposed to take over), actually took over te capital of the state of Chu (where 屈原Quyuan was from). He had to witness the demise and evasion of his country and he was completely heartbroken. On the 5th of May, or more accurately speaking the 5th of the fifth month of the chinese calendar year, he wrote his final poem then jumped into the river and took his own life. People were so touched by his love of his country, they decided to wrap glutinous rice in bamboo leaves and throw into the river, so the fish would eat these rice dumplings 粽 instead of 屈原’s body. Therefore, this became its own tradition, that the 5th of the 5th month of the Chinese Calendar year, the day that he took his own life, people starting making these rice dumplings 粽 and later this day became the dragon boat festival we have today.

There is a saying in Chinese 飲水思源, literally means drink water think about source. Basically saying we have to think and remember why we have what we have today, and don’t take things for granted. Isn’t that interesting how Dragon Boat Festival we have today, where if you didn’t know the story behind it, it seems like rainbow and sunshine, but actually it was from such a tragic story.

Dragon boat race at Aberdeen, Hong Kong - Photo by Samuel Wong on Unsplash

Rice Dumplings - Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

Let’s move on to the vocab we have talked about today, we don’t have too many today.

Dragon boat festival - 端午節 (Dummy PY: Dune Um Jit) / 龍舟節 (Dummy PY: Long Gel Jit)

Dragon boating - 爬龍舟 (Dummy PY: Pa Long Jow)

Swimming - 游水 (Dummy PY: Yow Shui)

Swimming during Dragon boat Festival - 游龍舟水 (Dummy PY: Yow Shui)

Rice dumplings - 粽 (Dummy PY: Jong)

Eating Rice dumplings - 食糉 (Dummy PY: Sick Jong)

Making Rice dumplings - 包粽 (Dummy PY: Bao Jong)

I hope you will have a great Dragon Boat festival with friends and family. 端午節快樂.