As the summer approaches, the Taiwanese get ready for the Dragon Boat Festival – one of the most popular annual festivals celebrated in Taiwan.
The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet, and minister known for his contributions to classical Chinese poetry. Qu Yuan committed ritual suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the era, drowning himself in the Miluo River.
According to legend, villagers desperately tried to save him, but their attempts turned out futile. So they started to beat drums, splash the water with paddles and throw sticky rice into the river in order to keep fish and evil spirits away from Qu Yuan’s body.
Dragon boat races held during the festival originated from the act of racing to save Qu Yuan or at least retrieve his body from the water. The balls of sticky rice that were thrown into the water have transformed into zongzi (sticky rice dumplings), the traditional food eaten during the Duanwu Festival.
🗓️ Dragon Boat Festival is a public holiday in Taiwan, making it a day off for schools and most businesses.
What to expect on this event:
Dragon Boat Race Events in Taipei
There is usually a Taipei Dragon Boat Festival Carnival that is held annually at Dajia Riverside Park. This boat race event is a great opportunity to see the crews tear up on the Keelung River while the front team member balances themself on each of their dragon boat’s head to reach out and grab the flag at the finish line.
This Dragon boat event generally goes on for two days, however, in the last year of 2021, it had been officially called off by the government due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
Location: The place to go see the Dragon Boat Races is Dajia Riverside Park, more specifically the Dajia section of the Keelung River. The International Dragon Boat Championship has been held here since 1996, and the races draw large crowds of spectators. In the midst of a very festive atmosphere, the contestants set off on their races from Dragon Boat Pier (Dazhi Bridge).
What about the Taipei Dragon Boat Races of 2022?
★ We are yet to hear the announced event details from the government for this year’s Dragon Boat Race at Dajia Riverside Park.
Stay tuned as we’ll update the event details when any upcoming events for this festival get announced.
The 5 traditional taboos during Dragon Boat Festival
Here’s a list of the following 5 taboos that were traditionally observed for centuries during the Dragon Boat Festival, though many no longer hold true today:
1. The eyes must be “lit up”: When a new dragon boat is launched, a “dragon drinking” ceremony must be held to bring the dragon to life. A priest will carry out a ritual that includes using chicken blood to paint the eyes of the dragon.
2. Women not allowed: Traditionally, it was believed that because dragon boats were a protector of the gods, women were not allowed to paddle the boats for hundreds of years, as they were considered unclean due to their monthly menstruation cycle. Phoenix boats were devised for women to race instead.
However, this taboo has been phased out and it is very common and acceptable to see women participating in dragon boat races nowadays.
3. Men with pregnant wives must not touch: Men whose wives are pregnant are traditionally warned not to touch the dragon because it is believed that it has “killer Qi” which could potentially harm the unborn fetus.
4. Those with recent deaths in the family much not touch: Those who have experienced a death in their family are admonished to avoid touching the dragon boat for a full month.
5. No shoes allowed: It was traditionally disrespectful to wear shoes or slippers on the dragon boat because they are considered unclean objects. All passengers were expected to go barefoot before boarding the boat.
Source: Taiwan News