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端午節 Dragon Boat Festival

Many Western holidays are celebrated to honor saints or other religious figures. Few if any are held to commemorate poets. The Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, is held each year in China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia to honor the poet and statesman Qu Yuan.

Qu Yuan lived over two thousand years ago during China’s Warring States Period. He was a supporter of the Chu kingdom and served it faithfully for many years. However, corrupt ministers, jealous of Qu, turned the king against him, and Qu was banished from his home. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote many famous poems expressing his love for his country. Many years later, the capital of the Chu kingdom was captured by the armies of its great rival, the Qin kingdom. In despair, Qu Yuan waded into the Milo River and drowned himself. The local villagers, who greatly admired the poet, raced out in their boats to try and save him. However, they were too late. To make sure that the fish would not eat his body, they threw balls of sticky rice into the water.

In remembrance of the villagers’ actions, every year people take part in dragon boat races on local rivers and lakes and also eat zongzi—sticky rice dumplings made with glutinous rice, meat, and mushrooms wrapped in bamboo leaves. Taiwan’s annual dragon boat races have become popular internationally, and teams from all over the world flock to the island to take part. Another Dragon Boat Festival tradition is the wearing of perfumed pouches. These colorful pouches are filled with a fragrant powder made from Chinese herbs and are worn by children to drive away evil spirits. This custom probably began because diseases and plagues were common during the midsummer months. Nowadays, however, they are worn simply for decoration.


許多西方節日是為了紀念聖人或宗教人物而舉辦,就算有的話,很少節日是用來紀念詩人的。端午節在農曆五月五日舉行,每年在中國、台灣、新加坡和馬來西亞舉辦,紀念詩人兼政治家屈原。

屈原生於兩千年前,是中國的戰國時期。他效忠楚國,並忠心侍奉楚國多年,然而貪腐的朝廷官員因忌妒屈原,使楚王與他對立並將他趕出故鄉。在流放期間,屈原寫了許多知名詩詞表達愛國之意。多年後,楚國都城被該國的頭號敵人秦國攻下,在絕望之中 ,屈原投汨羅江而亡。十分愛戴這位詩人的當地居民,急駛船隻試圖救他,但卻為時已晚,為了不讓魚隻以他的屍體為食,他們將糯米製成的米糰投入河中。

為了感念當地居民的行為,人們每年都在當地河川或湖泊舉行龍舟比賽,也會吃粽子(糯米飯糰)──一種將糯米、肉和香菇包進粽葉的食物。台灣每年的龍舟比賽舉世聞名,世界各國的隊伍皆前往這個小島以參加比賽。端午節的另一項傳統是戴掛香包,這些五顏六色的香包中裝滿著由中藥所製成的香料粉,孩童掛在身上以驅魔避邪。相傳此習俗的起源是由於炎炎夏日中常有許多疾病和瘟疫盛行,但現今掛戴香包只是用來裝飾而已。

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