TAIPEI, June 9 (Xinhua) -- Residents of Taiwan celebrated Dragon Boat Festival on Thursday with cultural events and races of the traditional longboats as their four-day holiday began.
Dragon Boat Festival is observed on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, June 9 this year. Dragon boat racing originated from the fishermen who tried to save Qu Yuan, an ancient Chinese poet who committed suicide in the Miluo River in central China, and has become the centerpiece celebration of the festival nowadays.
A race held on Thursday in a park along the Keelung River in Taipei attracted 212 teams and more than 5,000 people.
"Dragon boat racing is a Chinese custom, which makes us feel heart to heart and that we are one family," said Jeffrey Lu, a member of one racing team. "We should pass down the tradition."
The event attracted a large audience, including children accompanied by parents. "It is the third time we have come to watch the annual event," said a man surnamed Huang from New Taipei City, next to Taipei. Huang and his wife brought their two kids to watch the race.
In another area of the park, families played a game that involves trying to balance painted eggs on their ends. Locals believe successfully doing so at noon on this day will bring them good luck.
Dance performances and free tasting of zongzi, pyramid-shaped glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in reed leaves, were held elsewhere in Taiwan.
Taipei Zoo has opened a special exhibition of snakes, scorpions, centipedes, toads, spiders and geckos -- animals traditionally, and often erroneously, considered poisonous in China. There is a Dragon Boat Festival custom of hanging aromatic herbs on doors and window frames to keep them away.
The annual exhibition is designed to raise awareness that these animals are not as dangerous as people might think, said a keeper.