The dragon boat festival (端午节) is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month on the Chinese calendar (五月初五). This year, the festival falls on 12th of June.
This festival commemorates the sacrifice of Qu Yuan (屈原), a poet from the Chu State during the Warring States Period (476 BC – 221 BC). Qu Yuan was a very patriotic and loyal advisor in the court of King Huai. However, the king was misguided by corrupt officials, and sent Qu Yuan into exile. Without the loyal advisor’s counsel, the state was eventually defeated by the neighboring Qin State.
On this day, upon learning of the fall of his state, Qu Yuan is believed to have jumped into the Miluo river in despair. He was well-loved and respected by the people, and they wanted to protect his body from the fishes in the river. In order to do so, the villagers threw sticky rice dumplings into the river as food for the fishes, paddled out in their boats and beat drums in order to drive the fishes away. This practice has been carried on as cultural tradition: we continue to eat rice dumplings (粽子) and have dragon boat races (赛龙舟) on this day.
I wanted the kids to know more about our Chinese traditions and customs, and thought that it would be fun to do some related activities with the kids to celebrate this festival.
We began by reading a book on Qu Yuan that I borrowed from the library. It was a good chance to talk a little about Chinese history. Of course, there were a lot of questions from C on why he chose to jump into the river…
We then created our own dragon boats. I found a template online for the base of our dragon boat, and drew the dragon head and tail to be pasted on (I drew it freehand, sorry I’m not that artistic). The kids were given the template to decorate, before I cut and assembled the boats. I must say that I was pleased with how the boats turned out. C wanted to do more of them – we are going to try “racing” them tomorrow.
We also made rice dumpling maracas. I found a tutorial to fold a triangular pyramid here, and made it together with C. We used 4 pieces of 12cmx12cm construction paper for each dumpling. C needed some help with some of the folds, but she managed to follow most of the instructions. C and G helped to add some rice grains into the “dumplings” before we sealed them up with tape. The kids loved these! Note: This could get messy! We had rice grains all over the table.
In line with the theme, I also created some homeschooling material to learn chinese numbers. The same material can also be used for colour matching, sequencing, or photographic memory practice.
For C, I made some worksheets for writing and hanyu pinyin practice.
Of course, I’ll be preparing rice dumplings for the kids to enjoy! 🙂
Are you doing anything to celebrate the dragon boat festival? How about making a dragon boat for your own race?
Note: You’ll also be able to find the links for the downloads on my Home Practice Materials page here.
denverartmuseum.org for the paper canoe base
visualmandarin.com for the chinese stroke sequence