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Taiwan: Fifth Day Festival

(photo courtesy of judie)

Fifth Day Festival is another name for the Dragon Boat Festival or Duanwu Festival because it is May fifth in the lunar calendar (June 19th this year).

There are different ways to interpret the festival's cultural events we hold. The ‘traditional’ interpretation is to commemorate a Chinese poet Qu Yuan. The other interpretation from some older traditions is to prevent diseases and drowning in summer.

Either way, people are more interested in seeing dragon boat competitions and eating zongzi.

There are several dragon boat competitions in Taiwan, but the oldest one is in Yi-Lan (for more than 170 years). In this competition, there are only two teams. No judge, no time constraints–people can keep racing until one team admits their failure. Another characteristic of their dragon boat competition is standing on the boat and rowing.

Although there are many dragon boat competitions (some people are from other countries), there is only one place where the craftsmen make dragon boats by hand. Most boats people use now are made of fiberglass.

In addition to rowing or watching people rowing the dragon boats, how about trying an egg-standing game? And then, zongzi are ready!

Although Taiwan is not big, we have different kinds of zongzi in different areas. In northern Taiwan, people fry the rice with meat first and then steam it. In southern Taiwan, people put rice and other food together and boil it. In the Hakka community, people have another kind of zongzi. They grind the rice first and make rice loaf. After adding other food, they steam it. All of them are salty. There is another dessert-like zongzi with sweet bean paste inside. While other kinds of zongzi are eaten when they are hot, this kind of zongzi is eaten when cold and with honey or sugar. Smart-apple has described different kinds of zongzi. Arkun also demonstrated how her aunt made a zongzi in 48 seconds and made dozens of them!

zongzi by PipperL

(photo courtesy of PipperL)

While enjoying the food, people also like to argue about which kind of zongzi is more delicious. In Yogurt's family:

大家伙各吃著喜愛的粽子,配著茶喝著可樂又是一番抬槓。媽媽說:「水煮粽子,肉和米的味道都跑到水裡,整顆粽子都失甜了。」嫂嫂說:「喔!才不會!把糯米炒的油膩膩,多不健康啊」這時候素來疼老婆的大哥忽然說:「不要比了!怎麼說人家她們南部粽才是正統!」大家狐疑的看著吃著滿口北粽,心滿意足在享受美味的大哥,不明白超有堅持的他怎麼會為美色放棄美食?沒想到他慢條斯理的說:「具歷史記載,屈原吃的就是南部粽。」「啊~~為什麼?」「道理很簡單啊!屈原吃的不就是拋入水裡粽子嗎?所以怎麼說人家南部粽放進水煮是歷史傳下來的,當然是正統囉!」他吞下他愛吃的粽子後說:「我們北部粽是放在岸上祭拜,還沒丟到水裡的粽子,屈原吃的才是端午節的王道。所以,王道歸她們,但是我跟屈原不一樣,不喜歡在水裡吃粽子,我還是喜歡吃這種還沒下水拜屈原的這種。」大家恍然大悟的哄堂大笑,又是一個有趣的端午節!

We ate our favorite zongzi (different kinds) with tea and coke and chatted. Mom said, ‘boiled zongzi has less flavor because the flavor of meat and rice all goes to water.’ My sister in law said, ‘ oh, it is not like what you said. Fried rice is so fatty and not healthy.’ My brother, who loves his wife so much, said, ‘we do not need to argue about this! I say their southern zongzi (boiled) is more orthodox!’ We looked at my brother suspiciously because he was eating the northern zongzi with satisfaction. Why did he give up delicious food because of a pretty woman? He reasoned, ‘based on the history,what Qu Yuan ate is southern zongzi.’ ‘Why?’ ‘It's simple! The zongzi Qu Yuan ate is in the water, so I said boiled zongzi is orthodox. Although their zongzi is orthodox, I am not Qu Yuan, and I do not like zongzi in the water. I like this kind of zongzi which has not been thrown into the water.’ All of us understood what he meant and we laughed happily. This was another interesting Duanwu Festival.

This post is brought to you by the Global Voices Chinese (traditional and simplified) team of GV Lingua. Lingua seeks to amplify global voices in languages other than English through the help of volunteer translators. If you would like to contribute as a volunteer and join the GV in Chinese team, please visit our site:

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6 comments

  • Hello.

    I’m the fellow green portuguese translator faerie. I was a little confused about one detail about the (delicious sounding) zongzi. In the text you say the southern zongzi is broiled (grilled over an open fire). But in the wikipedia article you refer, it says the zongzi may be boiled, but no mention is made about broiled zongzi.

    i’m confused. if i were to prepare southern zongzi, should i use a grill over a fire or should i use a pot with water over a stove?

  • ifan

    Hi Daniel,
    Thanks for your careful reading. You are right. It is ‘boil’ instead of ‘broil.’ I correct this mistake.
    (Maybe we can try to broil the zongzi some day.)
    Best.

  • You’re welcome, I-Fan. :)

    And… Yes… maybe we should try to broil some zongzi, just to see what happens. LOL

    Best,
    D.D.

  • Yulin from Taiwan also wrote and interesting article of Duanwijie here: http://www.aprendechinohoy.com/blog/?p=424
    You just nead to read some Chinese or Spanish. :-) 881.

  • ifan

    Yulin,
    Thanks for your link. I am surprised to see a Spanish article talking about Duanwu Festival!

  • Thank you Ifan, but I am not Yulin, I am Javier :-)

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