Background Information: I have been on the Dragon Boat team at USC for one year, and I have been to multiple dragonboat festivals. I interviewed one of my friends on the team, who is of Taiwanese descent, and grew up in Hong Kong. At her school in Hong Kong, she heard many folk stories about the origins of the dragon boat festival, which is an important part of the culture in both Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Sabrina: “So, legend has it that a long time ago, there was a really famed scholar, who was like, really important in the king’s court, and um, he was like, one of the king’s top advisors. And like, one day a lot of other people were out for his position, and they didn’t like the way that he was controlling the king. But like the way he was controlling the king was like, he was like, making him really benevolent and like, generous. But then, um, like so the other advisors wanted to control the king to give themselves more power, right, so they like, murdered him? Like they told the king that he lied about something, and then the king like, ordered his execution. And then they dumped his body in the river. So um, but like, since he was beloved to all the people, like since he made the king really nice to his subjects, um everyone like took a boat, and like paddled out to the middle of the river and threw like, these like rice… like… they’re called like glutinous rice wraps? We call them like zòng zi (粽子). They threw them into the river so that the fish would eat that instead of his body, and his body would rest in peace. Yeah. And so like, that’s like the origin story of the dragon boat festival, way back in China. And like, to this day people still have like, festivals every year, during the summer, to like, remember that tradition.”
Thoughts: I enjoyed hearing this story, especially because when I asked Sabrina where she had heard it, she told me that it was a story that many people simply knew about, or just came to learn as they grew up. As we have learned about folklore, it is knowledge that is widely known within a folk group, but that is not institutionalized or ‘official’.