dragon boat festival

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Chinese Festivals, Cultural

Dragon Boat Festival – What is it all about?

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last week, those of us who live in China got to enjoy three days off for the public holiday commemorating the “Dragon Boat Festival”. For many Chinese people, this meant having the chance to travel back to their hometowns to visit their families. For others, it meant the opportunity to stay at home and relax for a few days before going back to their hectic schedules. For us at InternChina and many of our interns it meant: road trip!

dragon boat races chengdu
Image via DiscoverHongKong

But… what exactly is the Dragon Boat Festival and why is it celebrated in China? Most of us foreigners have never heard of this holiday before, and even those who have lived here for a few years know very little about it, other than that it has a cool name and it means not having to work for three days.

The name in Mandarin for Dragon Boat Festival is “Duanwu Jie”, and in Cantonese it is “Tuen Ng”. As it happens, it is not only celebrated in China but also in many other East- and Southeast Asian regions, such as Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.

colourful dragon boat close up on water

girl riding on dragon boat over water
Images via TaiwanHo! and Just About Travel

While in 2013, for example, the festival occurred on the 12th of June (and we also had the 10th and 11th off), there is no set date for the holiday on the Gregorian calendar, which is the one used in western countries. Rather, it is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, falling on the 5th day of the 5th month, which is usually at the end of May or beginning of June.

The Origins

There is no consensus regarding its origins, and there are numerous legends which, depending on the region, are said to be the source of the festival. The most popular story, however, revolves around Qu Yuan, considered by some to be China’s first highly renowned poet. During the Warring States period, he was exiled from the State of Chu – of which he was minister – for opposing the ruling aristocracy in an effort to protect Chu against the Qin State. When the Qin invaded the capital, he committed suicide by jumping into the Miluo River on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month.

Wanting to pay their respects to Qu Yuan, the people of Chu set their boats on the river and threw zongzi – glutinous or “sticky” rice triangles wrapped in bamboo leaves – into the water to feed the fish and keep them from attacking his body. This is said to be the origin of the dragon-boat-racing and zongzi-eating traditions that customarily occur on this day. Other customs of this holiday include drinking realgar wine and tying perfume pouches to children’s clothing as well as, of course, the mandatory firecrackers to ward off evil spirits.

instruction how to make zongzi
Image via FluentU

Dragon Boat Festival Today

An interesting fact about Dragon Boat Festival is that, despite being a culturally important holiday celebrated widely across China, it was not recognised as a public holiday by the Chinese government until 2005. For many young Chinese, this meant properly celebrating the festival for the first time; for the older generations, it meant a long-overdue recognition of the importance of preserving Chinese traditions and culture in a rapidly-changing, globalised world.

misty dragon boat festival racing
Image via EngHunan

 Sources: China View, China.org, Wikipedia

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Chinese Festivals, Cultural, Internship Experience, Qingdao Blogs, Qingdao InternChina Events, Qingdao Nightlife, Things To Do in Qingdao, Travel, Weekend Trips

InternChina Trip to Beijing – Part 2

As promised, here is the second part of my blog about our trip to Beijing during the Dragon Boat Festival holiday.
After having a look at the Temple of Heaven we went back to the hostel. Our feet were hurting and we were all pretty exhausted, so we split up the group, some went to eat some Chinese food, the others took a shower and had some food at the hostel.

IC group in front of the Temple of Heaven
                                                             

Later on we all met again for some drinks on a bar street close to our hostel. We had such a great night! We found a little garage bar where drinks weren’t that expensive and did some pre-drinking. After lots of ‘Ganbeis’ (Chinese word for “bottoms up”) we went to a ‘club-house’, meaning there was actually a club on every floor and also on the roof. We all had a great time!

Partying on the bar street in Beijing

 

The next morning we also got up at 8 am to go to the Forbidden City. We were all still pretty tired of course, but we were looking forward to see the palace located in the center of Beijing. It was crazy how big it was and it took us about three hours to walk through. But it was definitely worth it, it is such an impressive complex!

IC group in front of the Forbidden City

Then we went on a little hill located right next to the Forbidden City to get a view from the top. Of course you couldn’t only see the Forbidden City, but also parts of Beijing, like the Zhonghai Lake.

View of the Forbidden City from above
                                                                                 

Unfortunately after the Forbidden City our trip was over and we had to get all our stuff to catch our train back to Qingdao. We had a great time in Beijing, it’s such an amazing city!

Would you also like to travel to beautiful and exotic places in China? Apply now for an internship or send us an email at info@internchina.com for more information!

Chinese Festivals, Cultural, Internship Experience, Qingdao Blogs, Qingdao InternChina Events, Travel, Weekend Trips

InternChina Trip to Beijing – Part 1

Last week was another holiday in China, the Dragon Boat Festival. Therefore we all had Monday to Wednesday off, meaning the perfect opportunity to organize an InternChina trip to Beijing.Monday morning at 6 o’clock we all arrived at Qingdao train station. Sadly, we didn’t think about the long lines that might be at the counter for picking up the train tickets, we tried everything but the lines were just way too long that we actually missed our train… oops! Little reminder for everybody who is travelling in China, be there at least one hour before and if you need to pick up your tickets… show up two hours in advance or go there one day before to pick them up!
Well, in the end we had to get new tickets, gladly we could refund the old ones and so we could finally go on our trip at 4 pm. We made the best out of the waiting time and had a great sight-seeing day in Qingdao, we had a delicious lunch and visited Old Town.

Christian Church in Qingdao

We finally arrived at 10:30 pm in our hostel, all very exhausted but glad to finally be in Beijing. For the next day we planned on going to the Great Wall of China. The part of the Great Wall we visited was located about 70km north of Beijing so it took us about 1.5 hours to get there. Our hostel organized the trip so a bus picked us up in front of the hostel and drove us to a very nice – gladly not so crowded – spot at the wall. We climbed out of the bus and found ourselves in a really beautiful place. Lots of little mountains with trees and on the top you could see, very tiny and quite far away, the Great Wall. A place which all of us have just seen on television, therefore it was really exciting to finally get to walk on it.

The Great Wall

Our tour guide explained to us that we could either walk or take the cable cars to get to the top. We split the group and some of us walked, which took about 15 minutes, the others went by cable cars, which took about 5 minutes.   Finally up on the wall it was really impressive to walk on a sight that was already built in the 7th century BC. Of course the part we walked on was renovated for the tourists but we could get a look at the old part as well.

Finally we arrived at the top

We were walking for about three hours on the wall which was quite exhausting. But we were lucky, the sun was shining and it was a great day. After our hike, we had good Chinese food together at the bottom of the sight and then we went back to our hostel.

                                                                     Deserved lunch with some Tsingtao beers

When we arrived back at the hostel we were all pretty exhausted but there was no time to relax, we wanted to see as much as possible from Beijing. So we just refreshed ourselves real fast and went to the Temple of Heaven. It’s located in a huge park where many Chinese people come together in the evenings to play cards, sing and dance.

                                                                              Image source: globeimages.com

Tune in on Monday for Part 2 of our Beijing Trip!

Would you also like to travel to beautiful and exotic places in China? Apply now for an internship or send us an email at info@internchina.com for more information!

Chinese Festivals, Cultural, Travel, Weekend Trips

InternChina trip: Xiamen and Fujian

InternChina planned another fun trip for their interns during the Dragon Boat Festival, this time going to Xiamen! The city is a mere 12 hour bus ride away, which only costs 300 RMB (36.5 €). Having left at 8:00pm Sunday night, we arrived at 8:00am Monday morning, and straight away started our sight-seeing.
First stop: Xiamen University, said to be the most beautiful university in all of China. Across the street was a beautiful temple, with a mountain to climb to see the city views.

Xiamen’s beach is very beautiful and has a lot of fun activities, one of which is to rent a 3-person bicycle and ride down the coast. So after visiting the university and temple, we all had fun jumping into the water (most jumped in with all their clothes on!) and enjoying a cool-down in the summer heat.

After lunch, we took the bus and ferry to Gulangyu Island to experience the romantic beauty of the island at night. Gulangyu Island is a car-free island and is home to around 20,000 people. Having been a treaty port after the First Opium War, the island is filled with Victorian-era style architecture and British influence. There is a great international culture of pub drinking and relaxing in the evening with friends. We all enjoyed walking around the island, having a local dinner and relaxing in the main square with a couple of beers.

There was an abundance of street BBQ everywhere, selling delicious-smelling sea-food.

The last ferry leaves Gulangyu Island at 12:00am. Xiamen has many Bar-streets, so if you’re not spending the night on the island there are plenty of other places in the city to have a good night!

The following morning, we checked out of our hotel and set out for our journey to the Tea Villages of Fujian, a five hour bus ride away from Xiamen. Although everyone was exhausted from the night before, the scenery viewed from the bus was too stunning to miss; beautiful mountains with tea farms, rice terraces and banana plantations.

We arrived at the World Cultural Heritage – NaJing Yun Shui Yao, where we would spend the next two days. Fujian is important to China, as it produces black tea, green tea, oolong tea, white tea and scented tea, of which only the green tea was not pioneered in Fujian. This tea is sold all over China. For all tea-lovers, this is the place to stock up! Yana (a Russian intern) and I bought two 1-kg bags of tea for as little as 65 RMB (8 €)! The Chinese that came on the trip of course left with bags and bags of tea to bring home.

We ate lunch in a local restaurant that was situated in a vegetable garden. All the food that we ate was grown in that vegetable garden, which made the meal very special.

Afterwards, we went to the famous Round Houses of Fujian. These were built by families around 700 years ago to protect themselves against brigands. The houses only consist of one entrance and small windows on the outside walls and do not have walls on the ground level. The center holds a courtyard and a small temple. The external walls are typically 1 meter thick, and are three- to four-stories high. Each Round House could house up to 100 people, the typical size of one family during the period. The architectural style of the Round Houses are very unique in China, as most houses usually only consist of one- or two-stories. The houses are set in a landscape of flowing hills covered with Tea plantations.

We were able to go into the houses and see how they look and are set up. Most of the houses still have families living in them, and they were very kind to us. There were little shops set up inside, and Ruary (a British intern) had the benefit of learning how to play the Chinese flute!

There were also many tea-stalls, where they gave us some tea-samples and did the traditional tea-pouring ceremony.

The lovely hotel we were staying in on the river made us dinner and sat us in the hotel courtyard where we enjoyed a cozy and delicious dinner, and afterwards an abundance of beer and games. Because of the traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival, we were setting off fire-crackers and fireworks all night, as was everyone else in Fujian!

The next morning was one of leisure. Having been playing games and listening to music, some of us only got to bed at 4:00am in the morning, and were really excited to sleep in. Fire-crackers were going off all night and morning, so I was awoken to what I thought was a bomb. We had a couple of hours to kill before the bus would leave for Zhuhai at 1:00pm, so we all set out to find some local lunch and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the tea village.

Would you like to travel to beautiful and exotic places in China? Apply now for an internship or send us an email for more information!

Chinese Festivals, Cultural, Travel, Weekend Trips, Zhuhai InternChina Events

Dragon Boat Festival – Guangzhou

Dragon Boat Festival Trip 2012

The third biggest festival in the Chinese calendar is the unmissable Duānwǔ jié (端午節) or Dragon Boat Festival. Incredible boat races, loud firecrackers and delicious Zongzi (粽子).

InternChina – Dragon Boat Festival

InternChina Zhuhai is organizing a trip to Guangzhou to see the festival activities, explore some of the city and generally JIA HOU! (floor the gas-pedal)

The Dragon Boat Festival

Among the various contradicting theories explaining the origin, the best held is that the festival commemorates the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who held a high rank in the Chu court. But was charged with treason after opposing the Kings choice of an alliance with an enemy state. Once the

alliance turned sour and the Chu state was overtaken Qu Yuan committed suicide in the Miluo river on the fifth day of the fifth month (lunar calendar). It is thought that the people who admired him paddled out on boats to scare away the fish and/or retrieve his body (the assumed origin of the boat races) and offer him rice cakes for the after life.

 

These rice cakes had to be wrapped in bamboo leaves to prevent the fish from eating them, which is where zongzi is thought to have originated. Zongzi are pyramids of sticky (glutenous) rice with either a sweet (red bean usually) or savory filling wrapped in bamboo leaves, tied with string and boiled in salt water.

InternChina – Children

The Trip

We will arrange a bus to and from Guangzhou and book your choice of accommodation ranging from 65Kuai (dorms) ~ 140Kuai (single private) per night at the following hostel. For more detailed information please contact Beata at beata.matulevicuite@internchina.com

Friday 22 (public holiday)

  • Depart from Zhuhai (morning)
  • Book into hostel
  • Optional tour around the city

Saturday 23 (Dragon boat festival)

  • Early morning Dragon Boat races
  • Optional tour around the city
  • Night out

Sunday 24 (return to Zhuhai)

  • Optional tour around city
  • Pack up and depart late afternoon

 

InternChina – Shangxiajiu
InternChina – Guangzhou

Our optional day tours through the citys’ best-known areas is something to look forward to. One of the featured areas is  Shangxiajiu or “Walking Street”. As one of the shopping districts of Guangzhou, it providing ample opportunities for nabbing some awesome gifts for the mates/family back home – or just for yourself.  Also at night the entire plaza lights up like Bladerunner scene and provide a great backdrop for some awesome Cantonese restaurants. The flavours buzz almost as much as the neon lights do.