Dragon Boats and Plum Rains

Well it’s here again.  The east Asian rainy season known as the Plum Rains are have reared its gray drippy face。 Just in time to rain for the Dragon Boat national holiday. My original plan of heading down to, previously written about, Mengqing park was thwarted by the steady drizzle that started early early morning and has still not let up. Not a hard rain at all , just constant. My enthusiasm for sitting in the park and watching the dragon boats race down the Suzhou river evaporated as the rains condensed. I was really looking forward to hanging out in the park all day and there was even supposed to be a food street set up with all kinds of delicious food. Street meat , brew, sunshine , trees, and dragon boats , arghghhhhh stupid rains!!!!!

Okay let’s go into some details. Apparently the term “Plum Rains” comes from ancient China , the rains would start every year just around the time the plums were ripe.  When the rains fall on the ripe plums, there follows 40 rainy days. Maybe it’s all made up, but it sounds reasonable and I sure as hell haven’t noticed any amethyst hue to the water. Maybe a slight sludge color from all the air pollution getting pulled out of the sky but that’s it. Haha kidding but the air does seem really fresh right and I am definitely liking that. Anyways , these rains last anywhere from a month to two months or so. I wasn’t yet in Shanghai this time last year so I can’t tell you how long this weather phenomena went on before but I will make note of it for everyone this year. Perfect timing for my parents to arrive, no?

Now we will focus on the parade (or race) that these rains fell upon. The Dragon Boat Festival or 端午节 Duanwu Jie as it’s known in Mandarin occurs every 5th day of every 5th lunar month. This holiday has many different theories about its origins but the most common one I am encountering and the one told to me by a Chinese friend is the story of a poet’s suicide. Supposedly the poet Qu Yuan decided that in the year 273 B.C  he had enough and leaped off in a bridge into water to commit suicide. The villagers raced out in their boats in an attempt to save his life but unfortunately they couldn’t make it in time. They couldn’t help him in life but in death they could. The villagers threw glutinous rice wrapped with bamboo leaves into the water so the fish would eat them and spare Qu Yuan’s corpse.

Due to Chinese influence throughout Asia in ancient as well as modern times the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in Japan , Korea , Vietnam , Singapore , Malaysia , Hong Kong , and Taiwan. On an interesting note, this holiday is a brand new one to China! (the People’s Republic of China that is) You may be wondering ,”how this is possible?” considering how I just stated the ancient roots of this festival. Well due to the pure genius of events occurring after 1949 traditional holidays were ignored in an attempt to… uh well …….. I have no idea. Thankfully though this holiday was reinstated in 2008! Woo hoo! Yes opening up and reform! I have the day off now because of you! Weird to think that during my first visit to China back in 2007 this holiday didn’t exist and now it does again. Kinda cool. Ok folks I’ll leave you with some pictures.


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