July 26, 2016

Dragon Boat Festival

Economy

A few days ago, while all international markets were buzzing with stock exchange quotations and trading activities, China was strangely silent. Hong Kong, China and Taiwan that day were busy rowing: but rather than going against a current of capitals, they were actually rowing on real sharp canoes to celebrate a traditional and colourful national holiday. The stunning Dragon Boat Festival is held every year on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar and lasts for about a week, during which China comes to a standstill, and with it its stock exchanges too.

“Just taking a day off” is what analysts must have thought when they looked at the stats from afar, noticing the almost vertical drop of Chinese stock exchanges, which by the way still haven’t managed to match the figures recorded in June 2015. China’s capitals are still wading across, the FT has observed, yet while I was looking at people rowing on the Yangtze river, I couldn’t really tell.

In these days, with its display of national pride, China wants to pay homage to the patriotism of Qu Yuan, a poet who rather than seeing his beloved country fall in enemy hands, committed suicide by drowning in the river Miluo. Legend has it that people rushed to the river with several traditional dragon-headed canoes, but despite their attempts they just couldn’t save him.

According to some, however, the celebration (known also as Duen ng or Duanwu) could actually boast even more ancient origins tracing back to the summer solstice. It is a chance to compete, striving to be the longest, largest and fastest dragon boat. On the rivers of Southern China there is also another traditional competition taking place besides canoe rowing, which requires participants to stand on long bamboo poles and row down the stream. While they are putting their skills and dexterity to the test, onlookers usually eat traditional zongzi wraps, wave flags and play noisy drums.

Regardless of trading activities, China will never stop rowing.

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