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China to celebrate Dragon Boat festival during World Expo, World Cup

2010. 14 June

In addition to traditional festivities such as dragon boat races and rice dumpling feasts, the to-do-list for this year's Dragon Boat festival has two new items: touring the Shanghai World Expo and watching World Cup football.

( The festival, which falls on Wednesday, arises from the legend of Qu Yuan (340 BC - 278 BC), a romantic poet and minister to the king of Chu who drowned himself after he was forced into exile.

According to the legend, fishermen raced to Qu Yuan's aid in their boats but could not save him, so they splashed their oars to ward off evil spirits and threw rice dumplings into the river to honor his heroism.

Like any other year, this year's three-day holiday season, beginning Monday, will observe the traditions of boat races, folk entertainment and memorial ceremonies being held across China.

This is the first year of the celebration since the Chinese Dragon Boat festival was proclaimed an intangible world heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2009.

In Zigui county, the poet's hometown in central China's Hubei Province, a series of events have been planned to mark this year's festival.

On the festival day, the renovated memorial temple of Qu Yuan will open to public. The temple was relocated to its current site in 2006 to make way for the Three-Gorges Dam.


Since becoming an official holiday in the rescheduling of the national holiday calendar in 2007, the Dragon Boat festival has become a busy travel season.

Along with the ongoing Shanghai World Expo, this year's three-day break looks to draw more Chinese to travel, especially the more than 9 million students who finished their college entrance exams Tuesday.

Tang Yibo, director of the travel service department of, one of China's leading travel service agencies, said this year's Dragon Boat holiday season was expected to see a substantial increase in the number of trips over last year, thanks to visitors to the Expo.

A survey by showed Shanghai Expo to be the top travel destination for the holiday season among those surveyed.

Air tickets and hotels in Shanghai have been enjoying brisk sales as the holiday season begins.

Also, little or no discounts are being offered for air tickets from Beijing to Shanghai during the holiday and the prices of some economy hotel rooms in Shanghai have nearly doubled.

On Wednesday, visitors to the Expo will be greeted by a Dragon Boat festival stamp at some pavilions, according to the Expo organizer.

Chinese provincial pavilions, such as the Hunan and Shanxi pavilions, plan to hold activities such as demonstrations of how to make rice dumplings.

In the Expo park, celebration activities have already kicked off.

More than 100 amateur performers from Macao performed a musical composed of traditional Chinese folk music and dances at the Macao Pavilion on last Friday.

"We came and put on this show because of our passion for Chinese culture," said Du Cunzhong, chief musical conductor of the orchestra that played the music for the show.

He said folk shows were a part of the celebration of the Dragon Boat festival in Macao.

From June 11 to 16, 100 visitors to the Expo will have a taste of a Singapore specialty, the Nyonya rice dumpling, per day, which is specially made by cooks at the Singapore Pavilion for the festival.


Many Chinese will probably begin the day of Dragon Boat festival watching the Brazilian football team match early Wednesday morning.

That's exactly the plan of Mou Yisu, a 22-year-old new college graduate who has secured a job offer from a local television station in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

A fan of the Brazilian team, he said, "I am really excited to celebrate the first victory of my favorite team in the World Cup and the Dragon Boat festival together with my friends."

"We will drink beer and have rice dumplings," he said.

The absence of the Chinese national football team at the South Africa World Cup seems to have done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of football fans in China for the world's largest single event.

At the many lake-front bars in the Houhai area in Beijing, football fans reacted by sighing, thumping the desks and blowing horns to live broadcast of the match between Argentina and Nigeria on large HD screens last Saturday night.

A bartender surnamed Zhang said they were expecting more customers in the next three days, but attributed the increase mainly to the World Cup.

"Dragon Boat festival is like any other days for bars," she said.

Another bartender surnamed Liu said hardly any bar in the area would hold activities to honor the traditions of the Dragon Boat festival, but added that the bar he works for would put rice dumplings on its menu for the next three days.

Holding a cup of beer, a Chinese man, who called himself Jimmy, said he was a die-hard football fan of the Brazilian football team and would hang out with his friends to watch its match with North Korea in a bar.

He also said he would eat rice dumplings on that day, but only because "we will get hungry at midnight watching the World Cup."

"Thanks to Qu Yuan, we have a one-day break from work every year," Jimmy said.