Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Today is Duan Wu

Today is Duan Wu and early in the morning, I had to prepare the standard "SanSheng" (chicken, pork and eggs/cuttlefish), rice wine, tea and for this festival, the savoury and alkaline dumplings, for the ancestor worship ceremony. The ceremony is by tradition at about 730 am and my mum led the worship.

One other tradition we have is possibly exclusive to the Hakka community - this involves the Shi Xiang Fu (?stone-joss stick-symbol/mark).

This Shi Xiang Fuu is a bundle of five types of leaves comprising of pamelo, artemisia argyi (aiye), willow, anisomles indica (fangfengcao) and a type of grass(?) with long blades. I am not sure what this plant is but my mum refers to it as shi xiang or stone joss sticks. Hence the name. One does not have to prepare the bundles of leaves as these are prepared and sold at most wet markets in Kuching.

Artemisia argyi (aiye)
Anisomles indica (fangfengcao)
Unknown type of grass (?) - shi xiang

Each household would have prepared/bought two bundles of the Shi Xiang Fu and on the morning of Duan Wu, they are placed at the front door - one on each side.

My mum told us that this is a tradition from the Ming Dynasty. At that time, there were orders from the Ming Emporer Taizu (Zhu Yuanzhang) to massacre all the inhabitants of a certain Hakka district during Duan Wu festival - only sparing certain families or households specified by the Imperial court. These families were told to hang the secret symbol (Shi Xiang Fu) at their front doors. One member of the spared families took pity on the people in his village and told all of the villagers to hang the secret symbols. The imperial army thus spared all those in that particular village. This event was celebrated annually by the villagers who escaped the massacre and the same event commemorated by all descendants of the villagers. Since the event took place during the Duan Wu festival, for theses families, it was a dual celebration. The traditions continued on to this day.

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