Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dragon Boat Festival: Make a Fragrant Sachet

Xiangbao are fragrant, scented sachets worn and given as gifts during the Dragon Boat Festival because they were believed essential at this point in the season to repel insects, infectious diseases and evil spirits. Traditionally, they were filled with various herbs and powders from traditional Chinese medicine, though these days they are filled with stuffing and chemical fragrances. They are often given as gifts for well wishes, and come in many different shapes and patterns.

You can find all of our Dragon Boat Festival posts here.

Photo Source: Cultural China
We decided to make our own. After looking at images (we googled dragon boat sachets), the girls each decided how they wanted theirs to look. The bags (center, above) are the easiest to make.

To make a scented sachet you will need some fabric (we used scraps of some kind of rayon or polyester fabric that has a "silk" look), stuffing, pins and one sewing needle per person, matching and contrasting (if you are planning on embroidering) thread, yarn or ribbon, incense stick or powdered incense, and metallic markers for decorating.

To make the drawstring sachet:

1. Cut out a rectangle of fabric that is approximately 6" long, and 3" wide.

2. Take a length of yarn or ribbon for your drawstring, and knot it into a loop.

3. Place one end of yarn loop over top edge of fabric, fold over fabric, pin and sew.

4. Bring your loop to the other edge, and repeat step 3.

5. Now it's time to embellish your sachet. Pea used metallic thread and embroidered, with just the basic stitch, "circles" throughout the fabric. Elle used permanent and metallic markers to embellish her sachet. 

Pea couldn't believe it took her 5 minutes to complete her first circle, but she got quicker with practice. It increased her appreciation of all the work involved in the embroidery we've seen in traditional clothing. 

6. Once embellished, fold the fabric right side in, and sew along the edges.

7. Once the sides are sewn, your pouch is complete. To turn it into a fragrant sachet, fill it halfway with stuffing, add powdered incense (see below on how we got powder from our stick), and top it with more stuffing. 

8. Pull the drawstrings, and enjoy! You can also use some yarn or ribbon to hang the sachet around your neck.

Incense: I try to make a point of using things we already have at home for our projects, and granted, we have quite a stash of craft supplies and odds and ends. We did not have incense powder, but we did have sticks, that we don't use. I thought there must be a way to use the stick, thinking I would just pound it. Hubby had a better (less messy) idea: use a carrot peeler. And it worked!

Elle made a tiger shaped sachet (the tiger is seen as protective of children):

And I made a Zongzi shaped sachet, though, if I'm going to be honest, I can't say I'm too proud of how it turned out! But it sure smells good :)

And though we used incense, in order to repel insects around here, we probably should have added drops of citronella oil. Hmm. Wish I'd thought of that before we sewed them closed!

All our Dragon Boat Festival posts can be found here, where you can learn about Duanwu, find a review of a couple of books worth reading, a roundup of dragon boat crafts, the story of Qu Yuan, and a recipe for zongzi. 

You can find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups:
You can find more creative and kid friendly activities at the following linkups:


  1. Oh, I love this. I am learning so much from you. Thank you.

  2. These are just lovely! Tell your girls well done!

  3. Thank you for linking up at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop #5.

  4. Beautiful! And I bet they smell lovely! Thank you for sharing at the Culture Swapper.

    1. They do smell good :) thanks for stopping by.

  5. I used to take part in Dragonboat racing before I left Canada-they were so much fun! This year I'll be volunteering at the World Police and Fire Games...with the Dragonboats, I'm so excited! It would be great to have a little something with me for luck, even if I'm not paddling (maybe it'll help keep me dry). Thanks for sharing via Culture Swapper!

    1. Our city is hosting dragon boat racing this coming weekend, and we're looking forward to watching, especially now that we now the history behind it. And it's always nice to have a good luck charm around :)


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