Monday, November 05, 2007

The Duan Wu festival

I have been lazy these last days. Even if I had a four days weekend I did not update my blog. Shame on me. In fact I took advantage of these four days to take some rest, sort my stamps and to mail letters and stamps to some of my philatelic contacts, including some of my readers. I was so late in answering to all the mails I got !Today I have decided to show you the last item I got for my frog/toad stamps collection. I received it recently from one of my Chinese pen pal. He sent me a set of three stamps, and also the associated maximum cards. Here are the cards.

The set of three stamps was issued on the 25th of June 2001 by China to celebrate the Duan Wu festival, also known as the Dragon Boat festival. This is a traditional festival that takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar. This is why it is also called the double fifth.
During this festival dragon boat races are organized, and people prepare “zongzi”, that are bamboo-wrapped steamed rice dumplings
There are several legends around the origin of this festival. One of them tells the story of a poet named, Qu Yuan, who lived more than 2000 years ago, and who tried to warn the emperor of an increasing corruption within the government but failed. In as desperate protest, he threw himself into the river and drowned. Qu Yuan's sympathizers then jumped into dragon boats, and started to beat the water with their oars to frighten the fishes so that they could not eat Qu Yuan’s body. They also made rice dumplings wrapped in reed-leaves (zongzi) and scattered them into the river in the hope that fishes would eat the rice dumplings instead of the body of the deceased poet.
The first stamp of the set (on the top) pictures the famous dragon boat races organized during the festival.
The second stamp pictures the preparation of zongzi (that are pictured on the card). The shape of zongzi ranges from relatively tetrahedral to cylindrical. Wrapping a zongzi neatly is a skill which is passed down through families, as are the recipes. Traditional Chinese zongzi are wrapped in bamboo leaves, but the leaves of lotus, maize, banana, shell ginger are sometimes used as substitutes in other cultures. Each kind of leaf imparts its own unique smell and flavor to the rice. The fillings used for zongzi vary from region to region, but the rice used is always glutinous rice (also called sticky or sweet rice). Depending on the region, the rice may be lightly precooked by stir-frying or soaked before using.

Where is the link with frog and toad ? The link comes from the last stamp. As I said the festival is held on the fifth day of the fifth month. But the fifth month was considered as an evil month. To fight against this evil, protective charms were developed. One included wearing five colored threads or ribbons. These five colors represented the five elements (azure for wood, black for water, red for fire, white for metal, and yellow for earth). Another charm included the method of combating evil with more evil. People would embroider the "five poisons" on clothing or stamped their images on cakes. The "five poisons" are represented by the centipede, the lizard, the scorpion, the snake and the toad. The five poisons are pictured on the third stamp and the toad is also pictured on the card.

The cards I showed you are not strictly maximum card in fact. A maximum card should gather the maximum of coincidences between the picture of the card, the stamp and the postmark. On the three cards here, the postmark is a standard cancel of the first day of issue, which is not really illustrating the subject.

1 comment:

Gulfmann Stamps Collection said...

Nice, the Chinese dragon boat