Tag Archives: poet

Burn’s Night

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 55
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

This folklore is a holiday celebrated by the Scottish. It takes on January 25 and is used to celebrate the poet Robert Burns. Typically, families host a supper that begins with mingling. Poems by Robert Burns are recited. He is a very important figure in Scottish lore because many refer to him as a hero of Scotland, being their national poet. It is also referred to as Rabbie Burns Day. A traditional Scottish supper is then hosted, with a principle dish being Haggis. Haggis is the national food of Scotland and is meat mixed with oatmeal and seasoning that is then cooked in an animal’s stomach. There is a poem recited about Haggis because of how important it is to Scottish culture. Of course, whiskey is then drunk after this.

The informant spent four years living in Scotland when she was a young girl. She attended what would be the equivalent of an American middle school. She remembers this night well because it takes one day before her birthday. In addition, it represents a very Scottish dinner and was quite a culture shock coming from California. They learned it from their Scottish family friends who helped introduce them to Scottish culture. It is always a fun event that emphasizes heritage, pride in one’s country, as well as a close friends and family gathering.

 I like the idea of celebrating culture as a national holiday. In America, there are few holidays that are geared towards the arts and Robert Burns Day helps young children stay connected to their traditional Scottish roots.

Qu Yuan

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: February 12, 2017
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English

Sophie is an international student from Taiwan. She is pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science at the University of Southern California. She hopes to find a career in computer security and plans to stay in the United States, specifically Los Angeles, to work. She enjoys watching anime and learning; from USC-sponsored workshops, she has learned how to code and create chat bots.

Original Script

So, in ancient Chinese times, there’s this poet whose name is Qū Yuán. And he wrote these really great poems and he’s also this really successful government official but then the emperor died. The new emperor doesn’t like him, so the emperor banished Qū Yuán. And then he got to this river and he was really sad and he just wrote his last poem and then jumped into the river and died. But the people around that area were really sad because he was this really good government official and then they just threw all this zòngzi, which means “rice dumplings,” and threw them into the river so that the fish would just eat the rice dumplings and not Qū Yuán’s body so he doesn’t get eaten. So yeah, and uh, Duān Wǔ Jié, which is Mid-Summer Festival, we eat rice dumplings to remember this great poet.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant hears this story every time she attends the Dragon Boat Festival near the summer solstice. At the festival, people re-enact the tragic life of the poet and minister, Qū Yuán, up to his death. It is a folk legend that the informant grew up hearing as a child, and it holds heavy historical importance to her.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

Qū Yuán is a famed and respected Chinese poet and minister from the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty. Known for his contributions to classical poetry and verses, he served as a role model for scholars and officials during the Han Dynasty; the public admired him for staying true to his principles unto death. In certain regions of China and Taiwan, people commemorate the death of Qū Yuán in the Dragon Boat Festival. They believed that the locals rowed through the Miluo River on dragon boats to retrieve Qū Yuán and tossed zòngzi, or balls of sticky rice, into the river to save the poet’s body from being consumed by the fish.

My Thoughts about the Performance

While I have read about Qū Yuán in history books, I did not realize his legend was also considered the origins of dragon boat races and zòngzi. It was fascinating to hear about this famed historical figure, who is still celebrated today, and the legacy he left behind. I also find it interesting that he is commemorated only in certain parts of China during the Dragon Boat Festival. In other parts of China, such as southeast Jiangsu, people celebrate Wǔ Zǐxū at the festival; in northeastern Zhejiang, they celebrate Cao E.