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Foreigners embrace traditional Chinese culture during Dragon Boat Festival

Source:Xinhua 2023-06-23

YINCHUAN, June 22 (Xinhua) -- As this is her first year in China, Albida Sultana, an international university student in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is filled with excitement and curiosity to explore the rich traditional Chinese culture and participate in the vibrant celebrations of the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on Thursday this year.

"I know little about the festival, but this time I can experience it in person," said the 20-year-old Bangladeshi girl. "I want to try the glutinous pyramid-shaped rice of zongzi and I heard it's quite special and delicious."

Originating in China thousands of years ago, the Dragon Boat Festival, which commemorates the Chinese patriotic poet Qu Yuan (about 340 BC-278 BC) on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, has now become a national holiday. People enjoy zongzi, known as sticky rice dumplings, and watch dragon boat races on the day.

Sultana learned about the legend of zongzi in class, saying the traditional food was thrown into the water by people wanting to protect the remains of the great poet from hungry fish in ancient times. "The story is touching. I have already bought some zongzi from the supermarket," said Sultana, adding that she also plans to climb mountains with her friends as a way to relax during the festival.

Zafar Iqbal, a Pakistani expert at Ningxia Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, also loves the traditional Chinese festival culture. Apart from eating zongzi, he also wrapped rice and dates with reed leaves by himself, just like most Chinese would do during the festival.

Iqbal has also enthusiastically joined in the dragon boat racing, another cherished tradition during the festival. "I had the opportunity to witness a boat race when I was in the city of Fuzhou. It truly demands practice to achieve synchronization with the team, otherwise it can be counterproductive," said Iqbal. "I even tried it myself once, and I must say, rowing a boat with a long bamboo paddle is quite challenging. It requires skill and precision."

Mohammed Abdulkarem from Yemen came to Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, last August. He spent five years studying clinical medicine in the coastal city of Xiamen, in the eastern Fujian Province, where he first had a taste of zongzi and watched stirring boat racing.

"I tasted various flavors of zongzi, and among them, my personal favorite is the sweet one with dates," the 29-year-old noted.

Invited and encouraged by his Chinese friends, Abdulkarem participated in boat racing practice, which proved to be both physically demanding and exhilarating for him. "My eyes learned it, but apparently my arms did not. I almost plunged into the water," Abdulkarem said. "That day of practice left my body sore and fatigued the following day. Boat racing requires power and strength, so perhaps I need to work on keeping myself fit."

Abdulkarem said that he also discovered some philosophies about life and work from the dragon boat racing event, which helps him better understand Chinese culture and values.

"The spirit of cooperation and perseverance of every teammate is crucial to win a boat race, which is also important to achieve success in life and work. People within a team or family members should never give up easily and always give a hand to each other, then things will turn out with a happy ending," he added.

By Xie Jianwen, Xia Xiao

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