This Thursday, May 28 is the fifth day of the fifth moon according the Lunar Calendar. On that day, a good billion plus people around the world will be celebrating Duānwǔ Jié (端午節), a Chinese holiday that’s also known as the Double Fifth Festival in China and the Dragon Boat Festival in the West. What’s the deal with dragon boats? The story is that the holiday commemorates the drowning suicide death of Qu Yuan, a poet, scholar, and minister to the King of Chu in 278 BCE. A man willing to sacrifice his own life for the sake of his moral convictions, Qu was banished for treason when the king allied with a rival warlord. When the rival warlord over took the Chu state, Qu threw himself into the Miluo River in Hunan province.
The local people admired Qu so much that they attempted to preserve his body by throwing food into the river to distract the fish from eating his corpse. This is how the practice of making zòngzi , a.k.a. Chinese tamales, began. You have to paddle dragon boats out into the river and then throw the bamboo-leaf wrapped dumplings into the water. Pyramid-like zòngzi, made primarily of sticky rice and either a sweet or savory filling, becomes very heavy and hearty after its hours boiling so they’re bound to keep the fish busy for a while.