Letter from Adrian Lee
- (31/6/2000) in response to Edwin's broadcast of the Stanley race news to dragon boat fans all over the world with the help of the Polish Dragon Boat Federation and a reply letter from c.h.chung.
----- Original Message -----
From: < Adrian.Lee%DragonBo##.com >
To: Polish Dragon Boat Federation < PDBF%dragonbo##.pl >
Cc: < chchung%netvi##tor.com >
Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2000 11:08 PM
Subject: Stanley Tuen Ng Jit
Here is some further cultural information related to the Tuen Ng Jit / Duan Wu Jie Golden Dragon Year 2000 Stanley Dragon Boat Festival email message, researched by Adrian.Lee... inCanada.
The email from chchung%netnavigat## is from none other than C.H. Mike Chung. He is with the HK Dragon Boat Federation and also the International Dragon Boat Federation. His name was left off the bottom of the email I received, so I hope he can be credited.
I attended the Stanley event in 1997, and it was agreat traditional race based on a sandy beach. The boats actually head away from the beach, turn around, start and race towards the beach. Very exciting to watch the boats approach the finish from head on. Sampans and other spectator boats line the course; it is very very colourful and boisterous.
There is a kind of old tradition of popular religion in the HKG region at dragon boat festivals (also called Tuen Ng Jit in Cantonese chinese or Duan Wu Jie and Duan Yang Jie in Mandarin chinese and it falls on the 5th day of 5th lunar month) The boats race towards a temple on the shore as part of preparing the boats for the competition and honouring the local gods. The asian drummers always drum (not like outside of asia where crews often neglect their drumming.)
The event with largest number of teams in the world today I believe takes place annually in SWEDEN ! Like at the Stanley event, a lot of beer and good times are enjoyed by the participants, and it is a wonderful party.
In Canada the two largest events (each with more than 160 crews competing) also take place in late June, in accordance with the summer solstice observance (June 21) -- which is really what the 5th day of the 5th lunar month refers to.
Duan Wu (Tuen Ng) and Duan Yang roughly can be translated as "maximum sun". This in turn refers to the chinese cosmic principal of Yin and Yang. The male solar (yang) forces are at their maximum peak intensity -- it is, after all, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Similary (wu) refers to the sun's maximal position during the day, noon hour, and to the direction of south. When the sun reaches it highest point in the sky for the whole year, it is Duan Wu.
The imperial court astronomers could accurately determine the Summer Solstice whereas the peasants acknowledged events according to a 29/30 day per month lunar calendar. Some years an extra 13th leap month has to be added, so Duan Wu varies - it can be anytime in early June through early July, the same way the date for Easter moves around the calendar.
In European tradition, June 21 marks "midsummer" (eg. A Midsummer's Night Dream), although today June 21 marks the beginning of the summer season in the northern hemisphere, not its midpoint.
(In fact the english term <dragon boat festival> is not at all accurate, for in chinese this would be loong jiao jit (can) or long zhou jie (mandarin). It seems that the first westerners to witness the boat races in the 18th century misunderstood what Duan Wu Jie was all about and made up the wrong term.)
As dragon boating develops more as a watersport, it is good to know that you can still witness traditional boat races celebrated on the same day going back more than 2,500 years ! I'll be watching the web-cam broadcast. (Remember, HKG is one day ahead because of the international dateline).