A Dragon Boat Memory

“There is a prospect of a thrilling time ahead of you.”


Let me share a memory about dragon boats…

I could hear my heart pounding as the race started—no, wait a minute, that was the drumming coming from the boats. Sleek dragon boats filled up the waterway. Their elongated bodies cut through the river, each movement forward a result of concentrated effort from the paddlers. The rhythmic rowing swept the winning boat into first place.

Excited applause erupted all around me. People celebrated by cheering and eating the traditional food, zongzi, Chinese rice tamales. These bundles of food use sticky rice as the core ingredient. The rice is wrapped around a hodgepodge of interior fillings, including mung bean, Chinese sausage, chestnuts, black mushrooms, and cooked peanuts.

The zongzi is steamed and boiled to bring out the flavors. This culinary treat is not just tasty. It’s also symbolic. It’s tied to the death of poet and minister Qu Yuan. The official was falsely accused of treason during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty. Out of sadness, he threw himself into the Miluo River. The local people raced out in their boats to save him but were too late. Instead, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the water, so at least the fishes would not eat Yuan’s body. In commemoration of his life, people eat zongzi and compete in dragon boat races on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar new year.

Thus, the culinary and athletic traditions of Dragon Boat Festival pay homage to the past. Let us remember the significance behind tradition.

This year we can reflect and remember on June 20th.

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