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Tung Ng Festival

Tung Ng Festival 2018 and 2019

The Tung Ng Festival, known as the Dragon Boat Festival, is a traditional holiday that originated in China. The festival is held near the summer solstice. It is also known as the Double Fifth Festival as it falls on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese calendar.

201818 JunMonTung Ng Festival
20197 JunFriTung Ng Festival

History of the Holiday

According to modern Chinese history, the festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a poet and minister during the Zhou Dynasty Warring States period. He was a cadet member of the Chu royal house, but was banished and accused of treason when the king decided to ally with the state of Qin. When the Chu capital was captured by Qin, Qu Yuan committed suicide in the Milou River. Legend has it that locals tried to race out in boats to save him or retrieve his body, which led to the dragon boat races. When they could not find his body, they dropped balls of sticky rice in the river for the fish so they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body. They also beat drums and pounded their paddles in the water during the rescue attempt. Each year, they continued the celebration, leading to the sport of dragon boating as well as the annual festival.

Traditions and Celebrations

The festival is a public holiday in Macau. Celebrations include dragon boat races as well as preparing and eating zongzi, a traditional Chinese food made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed o other leaves. The rice is cooked by steaming or boiling. The tradition is connected to the dropping of rice balls to protect the body of the poet. In addition, they drink realgar wine and hang icons of mythic guardian figures as well as mugwort and calamus.

Many people wear perfumed medicine bags and take long walks. Some participate in a game of making an egg stand at exactly 12 noon. It is believed that doing so will bring good luck for the next year.

The dragon boat races were not an annual event in Macau until around 1979, but the event is now promoted as an annual international festival. Teams from around the world participate, including the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and Singapore. A dragon boat is a traditional Chinese boat shaped like a dragon with 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steer person. It is one of the earliest forms of boat racing known in the world.