[Dragon Boat Festival] Customs for Dragon Boat Festival across Guangdong

Dragon Boat (Duanwu) Festival is also known as Dragon Boat Festival or Double Fifth Festival in China. It is one of the oldest festivals that celebrate across the country for thousands of years. 

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On that day, people use various ways for driving out evil spirits as well as commemorate the great. In the long process of evolvement, people from different regions developed their unique ways to for Duanwu celebration. In Guangdong, residents in Canton, Hakka, Chaoshan and Western Guangdong also have their own way to embrace Duanwu.

 

Canton

In Guangzhou and Foshan, dozens of dragon boats will compete in Zhujian during the festival. It is really a spectacular event worth of seeing.

In Panyu, Agricultural Boat Racing is held in Haibang Village. The crowded riverside rang with the sound of drums and gongs and the shouting of cheers. The game is fierce and thrilling; all the participants struck the water with rows and fight hard for the first. The scene is similar to a painting of water region.

Residents would also eat a special kind of Zongzi - Alkaline rice dumpling. Alkaline rice dumpling is also called gan sui joong in Cantonese. It is one classic dessert of the Han nationality in Guangdong and one of the most basic rice dumplings for Dragon Boat Festival. This lye water rice dumpling made in Gaozhou, Zhaoqing, Zhongshan and Foshan are very famous. The glutinous rice is treated with lye water (aqueous sodium hydroxide), or potassium carbonate, giving them their distinctive yellow color. Alkaline rice dumpling typically contains either no filling or is filled with a sweet mixture, such as sweet bean paste. They are often eaten with sugar or light syrup. 

 

Hakka

In Hakka area, people eat pork-filled rice dumpling, hang kudzu vine at the door and drink realgar wine. 

Unlike the Alkaline rice dumpling, the pork-filled rice dumpling tastes salty. Legend goes that the Duanwu Festival is also the day for sending their daughters to get married in some Hakka families. As the journey is really long, parents will make this kind of rice dumpling for their daughters for it can be preserved for a long time.

Kudzu vine and realgar wine are two other essential things for Duanwu. Every family will hang dozens of kudzu vine at the door to expel the evil spirits. Meanwhile, they will also drink and sprinkle realgar wine to prevent snakes’ invading.

However, just a few places in Hakka area have the tradition of dragon boat racing. Till 2000, the dragon boat racing has been suspended in this area for 52 years.

 

Chaoshan Area

In the Chaoshan area of Guangdong, which consists of three cities – Chaozhou, Shantou and Jieyang, people celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival in unique ways. 

On that day, most households in Chaoshan areas eat Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings). It’s said that the water in rivers on that day comes from dragons, thus called Longxu Shui (literally “Dragon whisker water”). And drinking the water or using the water for washing can avoid evil spirits. In some places there are also dragon boat races. 

Dragon Boat Race boasts a history of over 300 years in Chaoshan area which is usually called Water Village.

The size of dragon boats in Jieyang are more standardized. In different cities or counties in Chaoshan area, the longest and biggest boat is 32 meters long and 1.5 meters wide with 25 pairs of paddles and a helm. Jieyang dragon boats have long thin dragon necks, beautiful shapes and are bold-looking. Every year before the Dragon Boat Festival, there would be a ceremony for the dragon boat to touch water, and then there would be a training called “Paddle Trial”. 

 

Western Guangdong

In Zhanjiang, Double Fifth Festival is a day to drive away evil forces. On that day, families insert moxa sticks or medicinal herbs to the front door to exorcise the evil. In cities, people also bathe at 12:00 using water boiled with moxa. In the Double Fifth Festival, people also eat zongzi in memory of Quyuan. The most distinctive activity in Zhanjiang is the historical dragon boat racing in An Pu Ancient Town, Lianjiang. 

In Yangjiang, the dragon-boat racing on the sea in Zhapo is even more unique. Dragon boats used for sea race are not as exquisite as those for river race – they are just the daily fishing boats called “Ting Zai”, meaning “little boat” literally with colored flags. This way, the race is even more rough and exciting. 

From the 1th day to the 5th day of the first month of lunar calendar, dragon-boat racing against the current is held in Yangjiang. The racing boats are usually 30 meters long, carrying 50 rowers and one man to play the gong and the drum to boost rowers’ morale. After the race, dragon-boats are buried beside the river or lake and will be dug up the next year. The preliminary race is from the 1st to 4th day of the first month of lunar calendar, and the final race is on the 5th day of the first month of lunar calendar. The winner is rewarded with a golden pig and numerous dragon buns (steamed bun with meat stuffing) etc.

 


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