Stellenbosch University: CISU Offers South African Students a taste of the traditional Chinese “Dragon Boat Festival”

On 3rd June 2022, Worcester Gymnasium was honored to be part of an activity day celebrating Chinese culture, cuisine, and language. This day of enrichment was brought to Worcester by Professor Binlan Huang, Chinese Co-Director of CISU (Confucius Institute at Stellenbosch University), and two CISU teachers.



Despite the suspension of Chinese classes during the pandemic, this event was well-attended, attracting over 130 teachers and students, all eager to learn more about this special day. In China, Dragon Boat Festival is a time to attend to issues surrounding health and emotional wellbeing, a message poignant to us in our current times.



In keeping with the spirit of this event, there was something for heart, body, mind, and spirit. Students took part in a lively session of Taichi, as well as a calming calligraphy session where they wrote the words “Ping An” (peace/ wellbeing). Students also got to express their creativity and made bright red dragon boats, the color being synonymous with vitality and celebration in China.


In celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival, Worcester Gymnasium students were also exposed to the culture and tradition surrounding this special day.



Firstly, students were entranced by the first presentation, the story of the Dragon Boat Festival. The story focuses on a poet of royal descent who deeply loved his country. His noble aspirations are thwarted by the Qin emperor, and thus, anguished, he throws himself into the river. His followers, who love him dearly, rush to his aid in boats. Too late, they throw rice balls into the water to stop the fish from consuming his body.

Food in China is not only a culinary experience but steeped in history, myth, and legend, too. Having heard the origins of Dragon Boat’s “Sticky Rice Dumplings”, students got to use a pair of chopsticks and try them for themselves. Chopsticks, the students learned, are more than just tools with which to eat. The second presentation explained just that, showing them the meaning and symbolism surrounding these modest sticks, as well as their etiquette and taboos.

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