Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dragon, Lions and Little Italy

It is said the dragon boat race began with the suicide of a famous poet and scholar, Qu Yuan, who jumped into the river when his country was invaded by Qin. This was more than two thousand years ago when China was divided by several smaller countries/warlords. Here’s the excerpt from wikipedia :

The common people, upon learning of his suicide, rushed out on the water in their fishing boats to the middle of the river and tried desperately to save Qu Yuan. They beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles in order to keep the fish and evil spirits from his body. Later on, they scattered rice into the water to prevent him from suffering hunger. Another belief is that the people scattered rice to feed the fish, in order to prevent the fishes from devouring the poet's body.

However, late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends (that is, he resurrected from the dead) and told them that the rice meant for him was being intercepted by a huge river dragon. He asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon. This has been a traditional food ever since known as zongzi or sticky rice wrapped in leaves, although they are wrapped in leaves instead of silk. In commemoration of Qu Yuan it is said, people hold dragon boat races annually on the day of his death.

While dragon boat race has kept its form more or less throughout the years, we now eat the rice treat ourselves instead of feeding it to the fish. Why waste perfectly good food?

The race is held at Treasure Island by San Francisco every year, but I had never witnessed one myself. It seems to be a crime since I’m only 40 minutes away from San Francisco, so my friend and I made the trip this year. It was a good excuse for us to take more pictures – she with a seriously professional camera, and I with a dummy camera.

These rappers are rapping in Cantonese. I think my friend and I had a cultural shock.

The dragon is getting ready for a performance by some super women.

While the little lions are getting ready for their turn, the green one is trying to appear ferocious for the camera.

Ready, get set, go! ( The Bay Bridge in the backdrop is undergoing a bypass surgery) The race will go on for two days as there are numerous teams attending.

You can see San Francisco skyline by the finishing point. Most of the time SF is covered with fog and a cool temporature of 60, but we are having a glorious day of 80 degrees and clear sky for a change. Qu Yuan must be watching!

We have lunch at a very busily decorated Italian restaurant called "Cafe Sport" in Little Italy, then some gelato afterward. Both are yummy. You can't beat an outing that has dragon boat races and Italian food.


  1. Sounds like a very nice trip.

    And "busily decorated" is a bit of an understatement, don't you think?

  2. lol! yes, hunter - i agree. i was trying to be polite. :)

  3. That sounds like a fun thing to watch! Great post! :D

  4. Thanks for taking us along. And, thanks for the story that went with the trip. I'll never look at rice the same way again.

  5. my pleasure, bruce. thanks for stopping by.

  6. Love the pictures! Did someone say Italian food?

  7. Sarah,
    how fun, now Bess is looking for chitallian food. Man I tell you always sumthin.

  8. charlene - thanks. i love italian food!
    bob - by chitalian do you mean chinese and italian food? lol

  9. Very good reads about a different lifestyle than laidback Florida. Look forward to reading your adventures. Never been to San Franciso.

  10. bubbie - thanks for stopping by. hope you'll have the chance to visit sf soon.

  11. Interesting post. I note that you write of the lions "waiting their turn". Suggests to me that they're merely performing for the crowds. Here in Hong Kong, I'm already looking forward to the new year (14th February), when we'll get two (different) lion dances performed exclusively for our village, complete with firecrackers and all sorts of bizarre rituals. I plan to post an extensive report, complete with photos, on my blog:

    look out for it.

  12. Sarah:

    We had our first dragon boat race where I live last year. I even got to volunteer. My boss is the president of our Rotary Club and the Rotary Club sponsored the race. It was fun. One of our local kung-fu schools came aout and put on a performance with a dragon. I even got to get in a boat and participate in a mock race with all the volunteers after the races were over.

    The Rotary Club will be sponsoring the race this year as well. I have already asked to be a volunteer again. :-)



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