June is here and one festival that falls in June is the Dragon Boat Festival. The festival falls on the 5th day of the 5th month in the Lunar calendar. The day is known for its colourful decorations and loud noise. Let us explain the festival a bit further and how it is celebrated in Hong Kong this year. It is a festival celebrated all over Asia including, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia. It's a colourful festival that is happily celebrated even though its history is sad.
The legend has it that the festival is remembering the death of a famous poet and minister named Qu Yuan. He was a high ranking official, but was exiled from his state by a corrupt emperor. He was devastated after knowing that his former emperor decided to ally with the enemy. Therefor he went to to the river to drown himself. The villagers then went out to the river in their boats totry rescue the body. They also threw sticky rice dumplings in the water to prevent the fishes from eating the body. However, their effort did not pay off and they did not find his body. The day of the suicide was on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
The tradition of dragon boat racing comes from the saying that the villagers was using their boats to look for the body of Qu Yuan. The boats are long and narrow with the front shaped as a dragon head and the tail and scales is printed or painted along the side of the boat. The front of the boat will also have a person hitting the drum to create a rhythm for the paddlers to follow. The boats can carry anything from 12 to 50 people depending on its size. The paddler teams can be put together by both woman and men, or woman team or men team. There will also be different divisions for different teams. It is said that around 4000 will come to the city from all over the world to join the races.
As the story say, they would throw the sticky rice dumpling in the water to distract the fishes. Because of this, sticky rice dumplings have become an important part of the Dragon Boat festival. The name of the rice dumplings is Zung, and are made of sticky rice and meat. However, in the modern times the ingredients of the dumpling have become more elaborate and would include ingredients like salted eggyolks, mung beans, Chinese Sausage, oyster, mushrooms, pork belly, nuts, scallop and anything that would fit with the sticky rice. All the ingredients is wrapped up in a banana leaf with a string around to keep the whole thing together. Some people will also mix soysauce or oyster sauce with the rice to give it a rich taste. Some people will eat the dumpling with sugar while others will eat the dumpling with soysauce. The dumplings from Hong Kong is know for being smaller in size and their savory filling, compared to some other part of China where the filling is sweet and include red dates, red bean paste or lotus seed paste.
Don't have time to make the dumplings yourself? Don't worry, they can be purchased all over the city in different supermarkets, restaurant chains, local restaurants and own shops that pops up for the occasion. Some places that are selling dumplings include Rosewood Hong Kong, Four Seasons Hong Kong, Cafe De Coral, Green Common, Soil to Soul and many many more. Just walking around the streets of Hong Kong you can see the bundles of dumplings.
What to do on the day
There is usually many different dragon boat races around the city during the festival. So there is many options for you to explore, like Stanley, Victoria Harbour, Sha Tin or Tai O. Enjoy the day outside even though the heat is frustrating. There will be colours, chanting and a competitive spirit. But bring an umbrella as it is forecasted rain on the day.
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