Some 2,000 years later:Why Qu Yuan lives on
This is a small segment of the weekly literary program Ink&Quill.
On June 14,2018, to usher in the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival, locals participate in a dragon boat race in the city of Yichang of China's Hubei Province. [Photo: IC]
On the fifth day of the fifth month of every Chinese lunar year, people in China and several other Asian countries celebrate a special occasion called the Dragon Boat Festival, or better known in Chinese as Duan Wu Jie, a holiday over two-thousand-years old.
Legend has it that in 278BC, when China was in the Warring States period and run by several rival states, Qu Yuan, a poet and statesman from the state of Chu, drowned himself in Miluo River after learning the news of the downfall of his state's capital. People living nearby rushed onto their boats to save him but failed. So they started to throw rice into the water as a food offering to Qu Yuan's spirit, as well as a way to distract fish from eating his body.
Qu Yuan (c.340-278 BCE) was one of the greatest poets of ancient China and also the earliest known by name. [Picture: VCG]
As time goes by, on every anniversary of Qu Yuan's death, racing dragon boats and eating Zongzi, a palm-sized snack made of glutinous rice-wrapped in reed leaves, have gradually become the common practice to commemorate this great poet for his loyalty and sacrifice.
Usually stuffed with different fillings, zongzi is a palm-sized snack made of glutinous rice wrapped in reed leaves that Chinese people enjoy during the annual Dragon Boat Festival.[Photo: IC]
But why bother? Why is the appetite for celebrating Qu Yuan still around after some two thousand years?
So for the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the coming Monday, June 18th this year, we will try to best answer this question.
On today's program, our reporter Shiyu talks with Professor Gopal Sukhu from Queens College, City University of New York. Teaching classical Chinese, he is also the author of two books: "The Shaman and the Heresiarch: A New Interpretation of the Li sao" and "The Songs of Chu: An Anthology of Ancient Chinese Poetry by Qu Yuan and Others."
Sukhu's translation is the latest English edtion of the poem anthology "The Songs of Chu," or better known in Chinese as Chuci.
Their conversation will cover but is limited to the following topics:
The life story of Qu Yuan;
The poetic beauty of Nine Songs and Li Sao;
How to translating Chuci into English;
Why Qu Yuan was as important to the development of the Chinese literature as Homer was to the western literature;
And much, much more!
If you want to hear their complete conversation, you can download the podcast from iTunes, by searching the key words: Ink&Quill.
In this extended version, you will hear Professor Gopal Sukhu voice his opinion on the populist impact of Qu Yuan, the similarities between Qu Yuan and Zhuangzi, and more. Also, you will hear a a small segment of Qu Yuan's poem, "The Ruler of the Xiang River" or "Xiang Jun"in Chinese, translated and read by Professor Gopal Sukhu.