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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in China Series at ChineseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Chinese holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 8, Dragon Boat Festival. In Chinese, it’s called 端午节 (duānwǔ jié).
This lesson’s topic is the Dragon Boat Festival, held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar year. The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional festival to commemorate a hero named 屈原 (Qū Yuán). On that day there are many interesting customs, such as eating rice dumplings, dragon boat racing, and hanging wormwood leaves. But first, let me tell you something about Qu Yuan.
But before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
Why did ancient people hang wormwood leaves on the door on this day?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Qu Yuan was a politician and poet who lived two thousand years ago. He had been a court official in the state of Chu or 楚国 (chǔguó). He was very loyal, but the King believed the words of the treacherous instead and exiled him. Feeling humiliated, he jumped into a river on May 5th to end his life. People loved Qu Yuan, so they boated on the river to try to save his life. This is now commemorated with a dragon boat race held each year on this day.
The dragon boat race is a very popular tradition. Dragon boats or 龙舟 (lóngzhōu) are small boats, each crewed by twenty-five members; one is in command, two are playing the drums, and the rest are making rigorous efforts to be the fastest to reach the finish line. What attracts people the most is the atmosphere of the race. On the dragon boat the drums sound like thunder, and the crew members’ shouts are never-ending. On both sides of the river bank there is an endless stream of spectators.
During the Dragon Boat Festival, you must not miss out on eating rice dumplings or 粽子 (zòngzi). Legend says that after Qu Yuan jumped into the river people didn't want his body to be eaten by river fish, so they made many dumplings with fillings and threw them into the river to feed the fish. This is the origin of the rice dumpling. So, what does a rice dumpling look like? Fillings such as jujube, red bean paste, or others are put inside soaked glutinous rice, and the rice is wrapped in bamboo leaves. After boiling them you can peel off the leaves and dip the rice dumplings in sugar.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question!
Why did ancient people hang wormwood leaves on the door on this day?
They did this because it was believed that hanging wormwood leaves on the door could keep evil away. Modern science has found that wormwood leaves can sterilize and prevent plague infection.
What did you think of this lesson? Did you learn many interesting things?
What foods exist for commemorating historical figures in your country? Please leave a comment letting us know at ChineseClass101.com, and I'll see you in the next lesson. Bye!