Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dragon Boat Festival 端午节

As you probably know, the Chinese recently celebrated the Dragon Boat Festival, also call Dumpling Festival or Duan Wu Jie (端午节), on May 31st. This is the time of the year for bak changs or rice dumplings. Although nobody in our family knows how to make ‘bak changs’, nevertheless, we had a feast this year, thanks to my generous neighbours.

The smell of freshly-steamed bak changs never fails to remind me of the time when my mum used to prepare them in our kampong home. Nowadays, kids can eat dumplings all year round. But when we were kids, we could only do that during Duan Wu Jie.

For the benefit of our UK friends who might have forgotten what the rice dumpling looks like, here is a photo. The one on the left is wrapped in traditional bamboo leaves. The other is wrapped in pandan leaves - it is called a Nyonya chang (dumpling). Of course you can tell that this is a 'modern' version because of the rafia strings.


I am not going to explain the history of this festival because our kids probably learned that in school already. You can also read about it here. I just want to share a bit about how we did it in the old days.

I think the method and materials have not changed. What was probably different was the equipment. My mum used to boil the dumplings in a stove using wood-fire. As such, this was done outdoors, usually beside our well. Instead of a pot, she used a big kerosene tin. We used to love watching her wrap the dumplings and tying them to a bamboo pole in clusters. I did try my hand once at wrapping the bak changs but it was a disaster.

Dragon Boat Races

This is also the time of the year for dragon boat races. I learnt that this sport is now popular not only in countries where there are Chinese communities, but even in non-Chinese countries like Russia. For example, did you know that even some states in the US have their own dragon boat associations?

Dragon Boat (11) - Jun04

This picture was taken 2 years ago during the inter-school championships held at the Kallang River

It conjunction with Duan Wu Jie, the SDBA (Singapore Dragon Boat Association)will be organising the 6th National School's Dragon Boat Championships at the Bedok Reservoir on Saturday, 17 June. For the past few weeks, my son and his team-mates at ACSI have been busy training for this event at the Kallang Sea Sports Centre. Whenever, I go to fetch him in the evening, I see many Caucasian expatriates training too. They are probably training for the senior category as well as international event which will be held on 1st and 2nd July. Details can be found at the SDBA website. Shutterbugs shouldn't miss this opportunity to catch some action and drama.

Kallang River 1

Kallang River 2

Below are 2 video clips that I took of the ACSI teams in action at last year’s event. The first is a 24-men C division event and the 2nd is a 12-men B division event.

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