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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Hong Kong Series at CantoneseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind holidays and observances in Hong Kong. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 4- Dragon Boat Festival. In Cantonese, Dragon Boat Festival is called 端午節.
There are many stories about the origins of the Dragon Boat Festival, which is held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. One of the most famous stories is about the ancient poet named 屈原, who committed suicide in 278 BCE. This must sound pretty strange—why would the suicide of a poet lead to a festival, or even a public holiday?
Now, before we get into more detail, I've got a question for you- How many people can fit in a standard dragon boat?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later, so keep listening!
Let's take a look at the origins of this festival. Along with being famous for his poetry, the poet 屈原 was an important official in the State of Chu. He repeatedly tried to convince the king to ally with the State of Qi to fight against the stronger State of Qin, but the king was fatuous and exiled him instead. In the end, the state was destroyed by Qin. Full of grief and agony, the poet 屈原 committed suicide, or 自殺, by drowning himself in the river. This eventually became the origin of the rituals of Dragon Boat Festival.
One ritual of this festival is to eat rice dumplings, or 糭 in Cantonese. These are made with glutinous rice and meat, or dates wrapped in long bamboo or reed leaves that are steamed before eaten. This practice originated from the poet’s suicide, because people from his state were worried that his body would be eaten by fish and shrimp, so they threw rice-stuffed-bamboo tubes into the river to keep the fish and shrimp well-fed. Years later, people started using bamboo leaves instead of bamboo tubes. Nowadays during the festival, you can also find many kinds of savory and sweet rice dumplings; among them, the most popular is 鹹肉糭, or salted pork rice dumpling.
As the festival's name implies, another custom of the Dragon Boat Festival is rowing a Dragon Boat, which is 龍舟 in Cantonese. This custom also originates from the poet's suicide, because after his death, people kept rowing out on the river to try to salvage his body, making a lot of noise while doing so to scare the fish away. This eventually became the annual dragon boat races you see today. The sport encourages teamwork and even developed into an international competition, or 國際比賽 in Cantonese.
In Hong Kong, there are many celebrations held around town during Dragon Boat Festival. If you happen to visit Hong Kong on this day, be sure to check out the carnivals or 嘉年華 and races at Victoria Harbour, Stanley, or Lantau Island.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
How many people can fit in a standard dragon boat?
The standard dragon boat hull is twelve meters long and carries twenty-two rowers, a drummer who sits in the front to boost morale, and a steersman at the tail. So in total, it fits 24 passengers.
In your country, is there a holiday like the Dragon Boat Festival?
Leave us a comment at CantoneseClass101.com.
We'll see you next time!


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😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 06:30 PM
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In your country, is there a holiday like the Dragon Boat Festival?

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Saturday at 05:06 PM
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Hello robert groulx,

You are very welcome. 😇

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Good luck with your language studies.

Kind regards,


Team CantoneseClass101.com

robert groulx
Friday at 10:30 PM
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thanks for the lesson

my favorite is 糭

we do not celebrate this holiday


Sunday at 12:57 AM
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Hello Emma,

Very good example! ?

牛津大學 (ngau4 zeon1 daai6 hok6) ~ University of Oxford

劍橋大學 (gim3 kiu4 daai6 hok6) ~ Cambridge University


Team CantoneseClass101.com

Friday at 04:08 AM
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In England, there is an annual boat race between students at Oxford and Cambridge university.