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Chinese Religion: Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival originated in the commemoration of a Chinese patriot, Qu Yuan, who killed himself by jumping into the river Li in despair of his country falling into the enemy's hands because his master refused to take his advice.

It is on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, which falls approximately in May or June in the Western calendar.

This festival is celebrated in China, Hong Kong South East Asia, as well as in some British cities, with a dragon boat race and the eating of rice dumplings wrapped up in lotus leaves. Originally, the purpose of the boats was to frighten the fish away with the noise of drums and the rice dumplings were used to feed the fish so that the fish would not eat the dead body of Qu Yuan. Whilst the dragon boat race has become an international event in Hong Kong, it is also emerging in some cities in the UK as a spectacular Chinese event.

Mid-Autumn Festival

No one can be sure of the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival but it was romanticised by the legendary story of Chang Er, who was believed to have taken a pill, become a fairy and flown to the moon to escape from the pursuit of her husband. It was thought that we could see Chang Er on the moon when it is at its brightest in mid-autumn (i.e. the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar). The exact date in the Western calendar changes from year to year but it is approximately in September. The Mid-Autumn Festival was also associated with passing on messages for revolution through inserting a note in moon cakes.

This festival is still one of the most widely celebrated festivals for the Chinese anywhere in the world. It is a time for family reunion; usually a big and delicious meal is prepared for all members of the family. The reason why it is also known as Moon Cake Festival is the special cake made for this occasion: moon cakes. Moon cake are usually made of sweetened lotus-seed paste wrapped in a pastry, usually with one or more salted egg yolks. They are usually made in factories or Chinese bakeries several weeks before the festival and can be purchased at the shops in the Chinese Quarter.

Chinese lanterns are also specialities for this festival. The most common are the paper folding type. However, there are many varieties of lanterns - different shapes and materials - available in shops.