Dragon Boat Festival and Qu Yuan’s patriotism celebrated in China

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The Dragon Boat Festival of 2019 falls on the 7th of May, and these days, Chinese are on a long holiday weekend leave to celebrate the festival. Dragon boat races are held in many places across the country.

The festival has long been marked as a cultural festival also in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

Traditionally, the fifth lunar month is considered an unlucky month. People believed that natural disasters and illness are common in the fifth month. In order to get rid of the misfortune, people would put calamus, artemisia, pomegranate flowers, Chinese ixora and garlic above the doors on the fifth of May. Since the shape of calamus forms like a sword and with the strong smell of the garlic, spiritual Chinese believe that this will help keep bad spirits and disease away.

Holy ceremonies and cultural performances developed from these practices in many areas, making the Dragon Boat Festival a very special day for getting rid of disease and bad luck.

The life of Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC), a patriotic Chinese poet and politician who lived during the War States Period, added a lot of feelings and colors to the festival.

Qu Yuan served in high offices of the imperial court. However Qu was banished for opposing the the king favoring an alliance and even accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.

It is said that the local people, who admired him, raced out in their boats to save him, or at least retrieve his body. This is said to have been the origin of dragon boat races. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan’s body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi.

Qu Yuan began to be honored in a nationalist way as “China’s first patriotic poet” during the Second World War. Wen Yiduo—a socialist poet and scholar later executed by the Nationalist Party—wrote in his Mythology & Poetry that, “although Qu Yuan did not write about the life of the people or voice their sufferings, he may truthfully be said to have acted as the leader of a people’s revolution and to have struck a blow to avenge them. Qu Yuan is the only person in the whole of Chinese history who is fully entitled to be called ‘the people’s poet’.”

One common goal of current Chinese nationalists is the unification of mainland China and Taiwan. Both the Communist Party government and the Taiwan government have treated Qu Yuan with honor as a patriotic nationalist although both sides differed sharply on the form of unification.

In Taiwan, there is a general consensus to support the island independently as a nation state. The argument against unification, especially among the younger generations, is partly over culture and whether democratic Taiwanese should see themselves as Chinese or Taiwanese; and partly over a mistrust of the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party (CCP), its human rights record, and its de-democratizing actions in Hong Kong.

At times of domestic problems and difficulties, the CCP government in the mainland has for many times intensified the tension between the Taiwan Strait by stirring up the sentiment of patriotism and even threatening with a war.

Although the dictatorship exercised widespread censorship on all types of media, the Internet is one of the rare places where Chinese nationalists can freely express their feelings, while at the same time, the ruling administration is busy in taking down controversial blogs.

Ideology and propaganda of the Communist Party have always be self-contradictory. They advocate globalism and openness while at the same time build the highest Great Firewall and restrict freedom of speech; they claim to be the people’s government but look down upon its common people as grass and dirt.

The Chinese government has always stressed the rule of law, but at the same time it is the greatest violator of human rights.

CCP officials have called for common Chinese to love the country while they themselves have sent their children overseas to become foreign citizens and keep their assets in western countries. The CCP leadership honors Qu Yuan’s patriotism but at the same time, they are true traitors to the Chinese nation.

This is China today in 2019. Does anyone think this situation shall last long?

By Winnie Troppie

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