14 Jun, 2019
10 : 00
Last week the Duan Wu Festival (端午节Duānwǔ jié) was observed across China. Better known to English speakers as the Dragon Boat Festival, this popular holiday is traditionally celebrated with Dragon Boat races. Across the country, people gathered to cheer on the colourful dragon boats, from parks to palaces, and even our school campus! That’s right, here at Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing), we held our very own dragon boat races for YCIS Beijing’s young scholars.
On Thursday, June 6, just ahead of the national celebrations, YCIS Beijing Primary School students marched onto our spacious inner courtyard to compete in their very own dragon boat races. Students contended against peers from their own year, with each year scheduled to take its turn on our main playground in successive rounds of racing. Our little Scorpions dug deep and found their competitive spirit, as each year divided into two opposing teams and took up their inflatable dragon boats for the race. One student from each group was appointed to beat their side’s giant red drum as each squad raced to the finish line. Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse and the afternoon’s races had to be cancelled, but what a morning of racing!
Though half of the Primary School were unable to take part in the races, all did get to enjoy the delicious zongzi (glutinous rice dumplings), which were on offer at lunchtime in the cafeteria as a festive snack. After all, a Dragon Boat Festival without zongzi would be like a British Christmas without mince pies… unthinkable.
While our students had a great time with our Duan Wu festivities, they were part of an important, broader lesson in Chinese traditions. All week students had been learning the history and legends of Duan Wu. The origin of the festival can be found in the story of the death of Qu Yuan (an ancient Chinese poet). When locals rowed boats across a river to try to save him from drowning the dragon boat racing tradition was born. After failing to save him, mourners then began dropping glutinous rice into the water to provide hungry fish with an alternative from Qu Yuan for dinner, and the tradition of serving zongzi during the Dragon Boat Festival began. As often said by our Primary Chinese Co-ordinator, Ms April Peng, “There’s no better way to teach a festival than to allow our students to take part in its activities.” Observing Chinese holidays has always been an integral part of providing a bi-cultural education at YCIS Beijing. We believe that by incorporating fun, interactive activities into the teaching of Chinese traditions and history, we can better help our students embrace and retain these cultural lessons. Plus, keeping students engaged with the Eastern aspects of their education strengthens their language skills, by providing context and motivation for their language acquisition.
To learn more about how YCIS Beijing beautifully blends East and West through our British based curriculum and Chinese programme, read the following articles: “Beyond Bilingualism: Nurturing Bi-Cultural Learning in Secondary”, “How to Make the Perfect Mooncake”, “Making, Racing, Painting: How to Teach Chinese Culture”, “ Embracing Chinese Culture through Traditional Folk Art”, “From Strength to Strength: YCIS Beijing’s Secondary School Chinese Programme”, ” Everybody Was Kung Fu Learning”, “Celebrating CNY: Bringing Chinese Culture to Life”, “Chinese Corner: Preparing for the Year of the Dog”, “Peking Opera Introduces Students to a Local Beijing Treasure”.