Gods or the hero?

단오제 (端午祭)or Duanwu Jie(端午節)? The debate has been on-going since 25 November 2005 when it was proclaimed that the festival, originally designated as Korean intangible culture heritage no.13 in 1967 is now a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and intangible Heritage of Humanity. For all I know, the two are not of the same kind, at least not in terms of its orgins, historically. The former has to do with more spiritual-centred background, which includes receiving and sending the dieties involved within the one month of celebration, starting 5th day of April in the lunar calendar. The famous Korean mime and mask dance is performed and traditional food and games involved in the festival celebrated in Gangneung or 깅릉. The later is a day to commemorate Quyuan or 屈原, the patriotic poet during the historical period of the Warring States and activities such as dragon boat race and eating of dumplings(picture inset) or leaf-packed rice will take place. The actual day of Duanwu Jie falls on the 5th day of May in the lunar calendar and today is the day. History has it that after Quyuan threw himself into the Miluo river or 汨羅江 (at Jiangxi county in China), in order to prevent his body from being consumed by the fish, people rowed their boats out to throw leaf-packed rice, now known as dumpling into the river. In this way, it is believed that the fish will eat the rice and not the hero’s body. This is why boat races are carried out and people would definitely love to eat a dumpling or two on this day or days leading to the festival. In fact, the event is not only celebrated in China but anywhere and everywhere where Chinese descendants are found. The dumplings also come in different shapes and sizes, as well as different ingredients, though more often in the traditional trigular shape, with glutinous rice, salted egg yolk and pork and chestnut as the main ingredients. I wonder how the youngsters would perceive this day to be, but certainly many are still in love with the taste of the dumplings. One thing for sure, the sale of these dumplings has affected the sale of other rice-related food and when I bought some sushi back for dinner yesterday, they actually came with a 30 percent offer! And frankly, whether or not we will remember Quyuan as we took a bite of the dumpling or just have some fun participating in the dragon boat race, I just hope that we will all know the history and culture of the festival. And so I hope that perhaps, the 강릉단오제would also include an introduction to the understanding of a festival celebrated by the Chinese people, at least for the sake of history.


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