Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat Racing, like restaurants putting Soy Sauce on every table, is one of those things that I just assumed would be big in China until I actually arrived here. It figures into plenty Hong Kong movies, and in Oakland they had a pretty big annual competition near my apartment, here's a picture:

In Shanghai, people are aware of Dragon Boat festival, but it's not a big deal at all. It's much more popular in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Perhaps because of the history: Dragon Boat Racing is associated with the traditional Duanwu Festival, on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, and the holiday was suppressed for many years by the PRC, because of its feudal history I guess. It wasn't until 2007 that it became an official holiday again.

So even if it isn't all the big of a deal, it is a colorful sight to watch. The dragon racing I saw was on the Suzhou River, very near Zhongtan Station.

Actually while the grounds to the side were small, they were extremely crowded with onlookers. It was a bright sunny day, a lot of women were carrying umbrellas to beat off the sun:

Just the tiniest bit more on the holiday: it's a traditional holiday, that's now generally associated with Qu Yuan, a poet from 2300 years ago, although the holiday predates Qu Yuan. People also eat zongzi, a rice ball very strangely depicted to the right, and drink a special alcohol, all supposedly in remembrance of Qu Yuan. Even with my limited knowledge of Chinese poetry, I knew Qu Yuan through a Jack Kerouac poem I like: "O Chu Yuan! No!/No suicide! Wine please wine!"

In addition to international teams, there were teams from local school and universities. I'm not a dragon boat festival expert, but I found it was kind of disappointing that the dragon boats were all the same, and kind of ugly. I thought one of the parts of dragon boat festival was making the boat looking all distinctive and cool!

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