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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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dragon Boat Festival: The Story of Qu Yuan

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

Qu Yuan was a Chinese poet and minister to the Chu King during the Warring States period (343-278 BCE). Due to his strong position against corruption, various officials tricked the King into believing that Qu Yuan had committed treason, and he was sent into exile. 

Qu Yuan spent much time composing poetry, and it is said he spent much of his time walking along the banks of a river singing sad poems. When the Qin invaded the Chu state, Qu Yuan jumped into the river to drown rather than see his country governed by those he deemed corrupt and unworthy. 

Qu Yuan is revered by the Chinese and honored for his integrity and patriotism.

The legend of Qu Yuan is honored with the Dragon Boat Festival. It is said that when the fishermen saw that Qu Yuan had jumped into the river, they jumped into their boats, and raced off to save him, beating drums in order to keep evil spirits away and throwing rice in the water, so that the fish will eat the rice and leave Qu Yuan's body alone.                  Another legend tells of a fisherman, who threw a handful of rice into the river to appease the River Dragon, and ensure a bounty of fish. Rather than catching fish, he was confronted with the ghost of Qu Yuan, lamenting of his hunger. Qu Yuan's spirit told the fisherman that the River Dragon eats all the rice that is thrown in the river, leaving nothing for himself. He asked the fisherman to place bundles of rice in bamboo leaves tied with strings, ensuring the dragon would not be able to untie and eat it. The fisherman returned the next day, threw a handful of rice to appease the dragon, and bundles of rice packages for Qu Yuan. From that day on, there was a bounty of fish for the fishermen. 

Here is an excerpt of the classical poem Li Sao (The Lament) by Qu Yuan, that mentions his time at court shortly before being exiled:
I wove for ornament; till creeping time,
Like water flowing, stole away my prime.
Magnolias of the glade I plucked at dawn,
At eve beside the stream took winter-thorn.
Without delay the sun and moon sped fast,
In swift succession spring and autumn passed;
The fallen flowers lay scattered on the ground,
The dusk might fall before my dream was found.
Had I not loved my prime and spurned the vile,
Why should I not have changed my former style?
My chariot drawn by steeds of race divine
I urged; to guide the king my sole design.

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, a tutorial for making your own protective fragrant sachetsand a recipe for zongzi

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