Talisman and Charms

Ever since humankind came to its own, it came to understand the limitations of itself and viewed every calamity it came upon as the handiwork of mysterious, unseen forces much bigger than it. This has led to the birth of talisman and charms that are believed to combat the negative forces and lead a human to the arms of Goddess Fortune. With the Dragon Boat Festival coming up again, know all about the major talisman and charms linked to the occasion, each of which are supposed to have its own significance. To share this article with your friends, click here. Have a grand "Double Fifth" time with TheHolidaySpot.

Talisman and Charms

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, or "Duan Wu" (in Chinese), is traditionally observed on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar (corresponding to late May - June on the modern Gregorian calendar). This is the reason why this date is known as "Double Fifth Day" and the occassion called "The Double Fifth Festival" in Western countries and also in various parts of East Asia.

The festival is typically celebrated during the summer months with dragon boat races, family get-togethers and feasting. But "Duan Wu" is also a time for talismans. And with good reason. In primitive China, the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar was believed to be an inauspicious time, a month fraught with danger. Hence, the ancient Chinese folk used a number of talismans and charms to protect themselves from the supposed malevolent effects of this month. Some of these are still practiced by many Chinese people, either seriously or to just have some festive fun. As the famous boat festival is held during this fifth month, the occasion naturally witnesses an ample use of lucky charms.

A popular Chinese tradition observed during "Double Fifth Day" is the hanging of calamus and moxa (oriental plants) on the front door by families. This is believed to scare away evil and protect a house from dark forces. Also hanged on the door of many Chinese homes is a picture of a fierce-looking male brandishing a magic sword. This is Zhong Kui(or Chung Kuei), guardian against evil spirits. The man is a figure of Chinese mythology and traditionally regarded as a vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings. The image of Zhong Kui can commonly be found upon Chinese doors, especially in the time of Dragon Boat Festival.

Another popular custom, carried on from primitive days, involves cutting shapes of five poisonous animals - snakes, centipedes, scorpions, lizards and toads (all of which are believed to tempt evil spirits) - out of red paper. These are then placed in the mouths of the carved wooden dragons placed on the prow of boats racing on the Double Fifth Day so as to ward off evils.

But it is also believed that such customs are practiced not only to prevent evil but also diseases. It must be remembered that the Double Fifth Day falls at the beginning of summer, when diseases are likely to strike. In China, the fifth month is a hot, humid season and the weather is conductive to the spread of infectious diseases. Because of this, adults and children used to carry with them fragrant silk pouches filled with spices. Hand-made by local craftsmen, these small spice bags of silk, fine satin or cotton were commonly believed to perform the dual function of scaring evil spirits away and also as a lucky charm in bringing happiness and prosperity to its wearers. These are still used today in the country. Skilled craftsmen often embellish these bags by embroidering onto them figures of different shapes, like that of animals, flowers and fruits. Chinese herbal medicines are also sometimes added to the spices inside the bags for added effect.

The tradition of drinking Xiong Huang Wine continue to this day albeit in a new form, in the very popular practice of having Chinese liquor seasoned with realgar (a rare soft orange mineral consisting of arsenic sulphide) at the Dragon Boat Festival. Only adults have this drink to get protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year.

It is said that all those who succeed in making a raw egg stand on its end exactly at 12:00 noon on Double Fifth Day, will have good luck and prosperity for the rest of the year.

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