Soaked in fun at Dragon Boat Festival

Hong Kong's Dragon Boat Festival yesterday saw brightly hued vessels flock to its shores and waterways, like Aberdeen fishing port (left).

Chinese mythology emphasises the dragons' control over rivers and rainfall - especially at the height of summer in agricultural southern China, according to the South China Morning Post.

A popular legend behind the festival involves the suicide in 278BC of Qu Yuan, a well-loved poet and statesman of the Chu kingdom during the Zhou Dynasty, who was falsely accused of treason and banished for his opposition to the king's alliance with the state of Qin.

In despair when Qin conquered the Chu capital, Qu drowned himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth month. Fishermen rowed out to try to save him, beating their oars on the water to scare evil spirits away. These elements endure in dragon boat racing.

To prevent hungry fish from consuming the poet's body, the locals threw rice into the river.

Wrapping the rice offerings in leaves and tying them with auspicious five-coloured threads, as one legend goes, deterred river dragons from devouring them.

Today, the leaf-wrapped rice dumplings are known in Chinese as zongzi.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Soaked in fun at Dragon Boat Festival'. Print Edition | Subscribe