#Chinese #Legends ~ Princess Iron Fan

Original Chinese Characters and the Korean representations in “A Korean Odyssey”:

Monkey King ~ Son Oh Gong

*The Monkey 🐵King’s Chinese name is Sun WuKong.  Wu is the Chinese word for “5” while “Oh” is the Korean word for “5”  So Son Oh Gong is just a rewrite of Sun WuKong. 😋

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The Monk Xuanzang ~ Jin Seon-mi

Image result for A korean odyssey Jin Seon-mi

The Bull Demon King ~  Woo Ma-Wang

Image result for A korean odyssey Woo Ma-wang

Princess Iron Fan ~  Na Chal-nyeo 

**Its her fan Woo Ma-Wang is getting in Episode 1 to put out the burning mountain 😍


Pigsy ~ P.K / Jeo Pal-gye

Image result for A korean odyssey PK

Sandy ~ Sa Oh-jeong (Son Oh Gong’s brother)

Image result for A korean odyssey Sa Oh-jeong

The Background

There is a place in time, where lions roam and dragon roar. A land in an age where the pathways between Earth and Heaven were highways for all sorts of creatures and heavenly beings.  Deities, demons, fairies, and monsters roamed freely back and forth, hiding themselves amongst the humans in mortal or animal form. Spawning the legends and myths that have passed through the eons from grandmother to child as long as time has been ticking past. 

But none of those tales is more wild, more dangerous, more exciting than that of the Monkey King and his great companions on their famed Journey to the West.   You see the monkey king was both beloved and a great terror for the heavenly and demonic beings. Many called him friend, but his character was capricious.  For such is the nature of these mischievous beings.  Much like little children, not yet mature with the wisdom of age and time, monkeys can be reckless, careless, and have a very bad tendency to rush in with arrogance to places not even the bravest of kings would dare to go.  

Monkey King 1.png

Such was the nature of the monkey king, Sun Wukong, and boy did he have a lot to learn before becoming the true king and hero that he always had the potential to be.  You see the Monkey King was clever.  Not particularly wise, but clever. He was born from a magic rock and was extremely strong as a stone monkey. He could leap from cloud to cloud, passing halfway around the world in only one jump. He had magic (he could make himself into 72 different forms like bugs or trees or other animals).   He was even able to command the great staff he uses as a weapon — a tool that weighs more than 15,000 pounds!  What a guy!  In fact, his fellow monkeys, the great Jade Emperor of the Heavens, the Guānyīn (Goddess of Mercy), and the Buddha all saw the possibilities that existed in WuKong, but it was obvious from the beginning he was going to have to mature before his abilities could be use properly.  

Monkey King 2

Even with all of that power and capability, the Monkey King was simply unreliable. He thought that all of his skills made him stronger than the other heavenly beings.  Wiser than the smartest deities. And more deserving of the title Emperor than the Jade Emperor himself (the most powerful of all the deities). He was fickle and easily distracted.  Selfish and demanding. After causing many problems for the heavens (like stealing the peaches of immortality and killing many heavenly beings during a big temper tantrum), he ended up actually going up against the Jade Emperor in a war.  It was a terrible battle, for despite his personal character flaws, Sun WuKong was powerful.  Eventually, the Jade Emperor went before the great Buddha to request help controlling the troublesome monkey.   

Image result for the monkey king under the mountain ancient painting

The Buddha listened and agreed, the Monkey must be punished with time to reflect on his poor behavior. So he moved the giant Mountain of Five Fingers (Mount Wuzhi) to fall on top of Sun WuKong.  There the monkey king was trapped for not one, not two, but FIVE hundred years!

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Finally, after the centuries had passed, the great Goddess of Mercy, the Guānyīn, decided to show pity upon the poor Monkey King and interceded on his behalf.  It was agreed that Buddha would release him from his prison on one condition — he must guide and protect the famous Buddhist Monk, Xuanzang on his Journey to the West searching for the holy Buddhist scriptures.  Of course WuKong was not particularly thrilled to be going on this “adventure” and there was no way the Buddha or Guānyīn were going to trust him to accomplish his mission without a little more persuasion.  So the Guānyīn puts a magic circlet on his head. Whenever Xuanzang repeats the chant she tells him, the circlet will constrict on the Monkey’s head, giving him a horrible headache. 

Monkey King 4.png

With them on this long and treacherous journey went two other companions — Pigsy (a pig with a weakness for women, sleep, food, and wine — his arrogance matched that of the Monkey King and they fought constantly) and Sandy, a great general from Heaven who broke a vase in the middle of a temper tantrum and was sent to earth in punishment (sound familiar).  So now, stuck with a Monk watching his behavior closely, and two companions who mirrored to him his own poor behaviors, the Monkey King set off on the adventure of a lifetime. 

The Story of the Bull King and Princess Iron Fan



In a journey that would last 14 years and hundreds of thousands of miles, the Monkey King and his companions certainly met with many, many challenging situations.  Especially since the Monk was a little naive and easily tricked by demons wearing human form.  They were all interested in eating the monk to gain power, and it was up to the Monkey King to protect him.  Each adventure passed, teaching its own lessons about life and virtue.  But few were as frustrating for them as the problem of the Bull King and Princess Iron Fan.  

Riding the great heavens and roaming the lovely earth was a great demon king known as Bull Demon King (牛魔王) who had married a beautiful woman Princess Iron Fan (铁扇公主).  Early during the Monkey King’s adventure, he and the Bull Demon King had become, well, friends for lack of a better word, though “pact brothers” is perhaps more appropriate.  This was very lucky for the travelers because the Bull Demon King was very powerful (the highest ranked of all demon kings, and of a position higher than even that of the Monkey King).   Together, he and Princess Iron Fan had a son  Boy Sage King (聖嬰大王) or Red Boy.  

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Now Red Boy had been assigned to protect one of their dominions known as the Fiery Mountains, because he was so skilled at controlling fire (he could send fire out of his month and eyes that could not be put out by any water!).   But he was also a very wicked boy.  He disguised himself as a little boy, bound naked to a tree and begged Xuanzang to help him.  Xuanzang was easily fooled and ended up instead being captured by Red Boy who hoped to eat him for his power. 


Although the Monkey King warned Red Boy that the Bull Demon King and he were now allies, Red Boy refused to listen and even tried killing the Monkey King!  After trying many different methods, the Monkey King was forced to look for help from his patron, the Goddess of Mercy. 

Now Red Boy, being rather foolish, stumbled upon the Goddess of Mercy’s temple while fighting the Monkey King and stupidly decided to test out her throne for himself. Naturally, that did not end particularly well for him.  He was stabbed by many swords and eventually got caught.  He struggled even more, but finally was defeated and left bound in position with his hands folded in prayer. 

image117Fast forward many, many years later to another leg of the companion’s journey.  They have been traveling a long time, but discover that each step keeps getting hotter and hotter.  Everything around them is red . . . the buildings, the windows, the lanterns  All reflecting the fiery red colors of the nearby Flaming Mountain (Huo Yan Shan) of Xinjiang Province. 


Again you have to go back in time a bit. 500 years ago (before the great mountain imprisoned him), the Monkey King had been causing all sorts of trouble up in Heaven. In the process, he tipped over the great heavenly furnace and the holy flames fell out to earth.  Setting the whole mountain range on fire and inextinguishable by normal methods.  (So really, the whole situation was the Monkey King’s fault to being with!)  At first, the Monkey King bounded off to see if they could bypass the mountain, for the flames were far too hot to pass through.  But the fires stretch on and on and on. There was no way to go around, so they were stuck finding a way through the flames.

Finally, a kind old man they met in the nearby village told them about the Demon Bull King’s wife and her magic fan.  The fan could not only blow out the fire in one way, a second wave of the fan would make a large wind and the third wave caused it to rain. This was very good for the villagers since that was the only time they could plant and harvest their crops. After the harvest, the fire would return until the Princess deigned to wave her fan in a blessing once again. 


At first, Sun WuKong decided to just go ask the Princess for her fan.  BAD choice. Remember, Red Boy and all his troubles? Well, Princess Iron Fan felt that the Monkey was to blame for most of those events — which was not really fair to the poor Monkey King to be honest. If Red Boy wasn’t so greedy and arrogant, he wouldn’t have gotten on the wrong side of the Goddess of Mercy in the first place.  But, like all loving mothers, Princess Iron Fan was only saddened that she could no longer see her son.   Naturally, she refused WuKong’s request!  Her only response was to come at him with a sword! Fierce mama!  


Illustration by Ma De




After a lot of fighting and bickering, the Monkey get tired of fighting with the Princess. So he turns himself into a bug and hides in the drinking water. When the poor Princess Iron fan goes to get a drink she swallows him! 😱  He immediately starts punching and kicking the insides of her stomach, giving her horrible pains and cramps.  Finally, she surrenders and promises to give him the fan if he will just leave her alone!  


But Princess Iron Fan wasn’t stupid. No. . . she was almost as stubborn as WuKong himself!  She sneakily gives him a fan that looks precisely like her own, except it has one rather noticeable flaw. When the Monkey King waves it to put out the fire, it only makes the flames even worse!!  Still, the Monkey King was determined NOT to give up. 


Unfortunately for the poor Princess Iron Fan, the Demon Bull King was not particularly the faithful kind of husband one might desire. Two years earlier he had run off with a Fox-Princess (Princess Jade, the hussy, had promised him her lands if he would come live with her), and he had now abandoned his wife.  Hoping that his love for Princess Iron Fan had faded and counting on their old “brotherhood” relationship, WuKong bounded off to their home.  The thought was the Demon Bull King might be able to persuade his wife to give up her fan. 

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the Monkey King again rushed into a situation without caution. Upon stumbling across Princess Jade, WuKong believed her to be some servant or something.  He decided to pretend to be the Bull Demon King’s relative and claim to be inviting him to a banquet with. . . you guessed it – Princess Iron Fan.  Well that sent Princess Jade into quite the temper and she went off.  She yelled at him, he lost his temper and yelled at her.  Some very harsh words were exchanged — words we should not mention here.   She then fled sobbing and complaining straight into the arms of her lover — the Demon King.  Of course, with a woman like that, it took him a very long time to appease her temper and it put him in a horribly foul mood.  (It didn’t help that he also blamed WuKong for the fall of Red Boy and that he knows the only reason the Princess Iron Fan would refuse to help is if the Monkey King had been pestering her). 


After several fights with the Bull Demon King, WuKong realized that this plan was probably not going to work.  Of course, Monkey King might have many, many, many flaws . . . but surrendering without a fight wasn’t one of them.  Then there was the fact that he was tricky and clever. Playing jokes on someone and causing trouble was almost second nature for him! So what does he do? He changes into the shape of the Bull Demon King and goes to visit Princess Iron Fan!  (sounds like something Zeus would have pulled in the Greco-myths). 

What would any poor woman do when her much loved husband returns after two years away professing to love and adore you? She fell under the Monkey’s spell and threw open her doors to let him in.  She flirted (showed off her chest!), offered him a meal, and finally got drunk with him — all the while believing her beloved had returned.  Troublesome monkey!  Lost in a haze of wine, her tongue loosened up and she ended up not only giving the Monkey King the fan, but telling him how to wield it!  


Surely, the Monkey King then slipped out secretly with Princess Iron Fan none the wiser. But no!  He had to boast of what he had done — showing off his skills and talents. Shredding the Demon Bull King’s form, he laughed at Princess Iron Fan for falling into his trap.  Leaving with his treasure, he found that the precious holy fan was 12 feet long and a hefty dog to boot.   But still he set off on his way to put out the flames.


Meanwhile, the Demon Bull King realized something was up and decided to go check on his wife (at last!). Arriving he found her in a much angrier state as she came at him for letting WuKong return to trick her.  To appease her rage (and to get revenge on WuKong), Demon Bull King promised to bring her back that annoying Monkey’s heart after his bones were ground to dust. Oh dear!

The Demon Bull King was not an enemy to be trifled with. There was a reason his rank and power were so great, for he was awfully clever and tricky himself.  Changing himself into the form of Pigsy, he went down and met WuKong as he journeyed back to his companions.  After listening to WuKong’s boast about how he had managed to get the fan, the Demon Bull King praised his efforts and catered to his ego.  Finally, in passing, the Demon Bull King mentioned that WuKong must be very tired after so much effort. Why didn’t the Monkey King let him hold the fan for a while?  This was almost the same trick WuKong had tried to pull on Princess Iron Fan!  Surely he saw through this and hurried away! But No!  WuKong fell straight into the trap and handed off the fan to the Bull King 😭


Suffice to saw what followed was a very long battle between the Monkey King and the Demon Bull King.  It was the match of the era. A Monkey King with powers even heaven found it difficult to battle and the strongest of all the Demon King’s. Back and forth they went, on and on.  Indeed, their powers were very well matched.   At last, unhappy that the Princess Iron Fan and the Demon Bull King had used such petty reasons to interfere in Xuanzang’s tasked mission and realizing that he was too much for the Monkey King to defeat, the Buddha and the Jade Emperor send down the heavenly warriors to assist WuKong. 

Once defeated, the Demon Bull King and his wife promised to stop behaving so badly and follow the Buddhist life in the future.   Sun WuKong at last was handed the holy Fan and he set out to quash the flames and bring forth the winds and rain.  The companions were able to move on and so the adventure continued. 


Moral of the Story

The Journey of the West was largely a moral tale, designed to introduce to children the proper ways of behaving and the beginning of wisdom.  As this story shows, the Monkey King is not actually a bad sort — just childish and self-centered.  He has so much potential, but not the maturity to rise into it.  He and his companions must all learn to avoid the vices of greed, selfishness, quick-tempered behavior, and recklessness.  It shows that past actions can influence future events, and that how you handle a trouble today may either help or hinder you later.  Most important . . . no matter how strong you might be or how confident you are, there is always someone out there who is just as strong and confident themselves.  Pride goes before a fall!





  1. Wikipedia. “Princess Iron Fan.”
  2. Journey to the West (English Translation)
  3. Seymour Center 
  4. Chinese Aesop
  6. When You Wish Upon A Star blog
  7. Ancient Origins
  8. Inner Journey to the West

#China Spring Festival (gryffindor house would be proud)

Chinese Spring Festival🐉 . . . when all of China turns into gryffindor 🦁 house and red and gold colors 🇨🇳 rule.

I think Walmart might be secretly connected to Chinese hogwarts. Walk inside and its gryffindor pride

*Personally, I’m a slytherin – which fits, since my Chinese zodiac Animal is the snake 🐍

Laba Festival

Did you eat your porridge yet?!?

Today (January 24)  is the Laba Festival ( 腊八) or Rice Porridge Festival in China!  On the Chinese lunar calendar, La is the 12th month of the year, and ba represents the 8th day of that month.  So basically Laba means 12th month, 8th day.  And that day is today!!!  

The Laba Festival (like so many Chinese festivals) is mostly famous as a food holiday, one where the Chinese cook and eat delicious foods like the Dumplings of the Ghost Festival, the Moon Cakes of the Moon Festival, etc.  On the Laba Festival, people make different kinds of rice porridge filled with beans, nuts, dried fruit, etc.  

The next Laba will fall on January 13, 2019.

The Legend

According to the old stories, the Laba Festival was traditionally a day of offering sacrifices to the ancestors in honor of celebrating the harvest season.  I’m not really sure if this was the “upcoming planting for later harvest” festival or a “after the end of winter wheat harvest” festival, none of my students seemed to know either.  However, we do know that in the old days, the word for ‘sacrificing to the ancestors’ was ‘La’ and it happened on the La month (January-ish).  

Sometime during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (1st century AD) the festival was finally fixed to the 8th day of the La month.    The myths say that the number 8 “Ba” was chosen because it was on that day (La Ba – 8th day of La month) that Sakyamuni (Gautama Buddha), an Indian prince, was able to finally achieve enlightenment and rise as a Buddha. Sakyamuni was the son of an emperor from northern India who grew sad when he saw his people’s suffering.  He eventually abandoned the throne and chose to seek Buddhist enlightenment.  One day, starving and tired, a young shepherd girl offered him porridge made of rice, giving him strength to continue on his way.  A few years later, he attained enlightenment on the 8th day of the 12th month.  In honor of his suffering and success, people began offering rice porridge to the Buddha every year on that day.  

Over time, the harvest festival and the Buddhist festival came together in one big celebration. 


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Here in Dongbei (Northeast China), my students are all wishing each other Laba Day greetings and reminding each other to eat porridge.  The porridge they are talking about is sometimes called Laba Congee instead.  There are different variations; for example, some have lotus seeds and others have peas,  fruit or nuts in it.  Some have all kinds of stuff mixed together.  Apparently some areas of China have meat or tofu in it, and some vegetables, because my friend posted a picture of that kind.   

Because it is the 8th day, the Chinese like to add in 8 ingredients to make the porridge (I love China and their love of numbers).   So they boil it like normal porridge, with maybe some extra sugar to sweeten it. It takes several hours to make, especially the beans which have to soak.  

The first bowl is offered to the ancestors (for those who still honor them — it’s not quite as common here in China anymore, but the thought is there).  Then some can be sent to neighbors or friends, grandparents, etc.  Then the family eats the remainder together. Hopefully, you have plenty!  If there is some left over, it means next year will be bountiful! (Remember this is still a harvest festival). 

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Apparently in some of the old times, the businessmen and government officials would give it to the employees on Laba Festival as a treat, but it’s history goes even further back than that. Some say it was originally served only to the ancestors during the Hong dynasty and later became more commonly served in the Song dynasty.  A few say that it is made in remembrance of an emperor who grew up poor eating only congee and later asked everyone in the empire to eat it once a year to remember their origins.    Whatever the origins, Laba porridge has been part of the festival since the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD).  

Some people will also make Laba Garlic  as well.  A couple students I know have posted pictures of the process on their WeChat.  They peel the garlic and add it to a jar.  Then they fill the jar up with rice vinegar and sugar.  Eventually it turns GREEN!  They’ll keep it until the Spring Festival when they eat it for the holiday.  

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An Afternoon in #Gongyi, #China


The province of Henan resides in central China, and is home to the largest population here. Although the modern day center is the famous Beijing, China’s history has to a large extent actually centered around Henan itself. Of the six ancient capitals in the country, three of them are in Henan.  If you’ve ever watched some of the popular Chinese martial arts films, you will have heard the names “Luoyang,” Kaifeng,” and “Shaolin Temple.”  I now can proudly say I’ve been to all these places and more! At this point, I’ve visited:

  • Anyang
  • Xinyang
  • Nanyang
  • Pingdingshan
  • Zhoukou
  • Zhumadian
  • Zhengzhou
  • Xinzheng
  • Kaifeng
  • Luoyang

and more! 

This past weekend, I got the opportunity to add a new city to my list — Gongyi (巩义市).  Gongyi is a small city about 1 hour from Zhengzhou (the capital).  On one side you have Mount Song and many hills (beautiful!). On another, it is bordered by the Yellow River, one of the 2 most famous in China. 

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The entire trip for us was planned by the Henan Tourism Organization (the provincial tourism committee), so we didn’t actually have to pay for anything. However, the cost wasn’t bad at all even if you did pay.  


The bus ride up there costs about 10RMB ($1.50) and was extremely interesting just on its own. We passed the lovely shrine/temple shown above (I’m not exactly sure what that was – we didn’t stop), but even more awesome were the hundreds of Cave Homes we passed!  Here in Gongyi, many people actually still live in caves dug into the cliffs surrounding the area.  Although most westerners think “oh poverty!”, this isn’t actually true.  A lot of these homes are really nice and awesome!  They have running water and electricity, drive up roads, yards and gardens in the front, elaborate front doors, etc.  They are really nice, just inside a mountain. I wasn’t able to get excellent photos since we just drove past them, but sometime I want to go back. 

When you arrive in the city, you’ll see a lot of things dedicated to DuFu (杜甫). DuFu lived in the Tang Dynasty (700s) and is considered perhaps China’s best poet!  According to the Chinese, he was born here and is still revered as seen through the statues and monument decorating the city.  According to the tour guide, the Chinese consider him the #1 literary person to know and he has often been considered the “Chinese Shakespeare.” His ancestral home is here too!


Once we arrived, we had a small trek to our restaurant so we walked through the Imperial Mausoleums of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).  Also called the “Song Tombs”, this area is where all but one emperor of the North Song Dynasty are buried.  They include Tai Zu (Zhao Kuangyin), Tai Zong (Zhao Guangyi), Zhen Zong (Zhao Heng), Ren Zong (Zhao Zhen), Ying Zong (Zhao Shu), Shen Zong (Zhao Xu) and Zhe Zong (Zhao Xu).  🙂 

This part was free (it’s just a giant city part area where you can walk around) and was huge for a city park. A great place to take your kids for a picnic! Up towards the tombs themselves are a long row of stone statues that were really interesting. 


After lunch, we got back on the bus and took about a 20 minute ride to the Kang Mansion (Kangbaiwan – 河南巩义康百万庄园).  “Baiwan” means Millionaire, so this is the home of the Millionaire Kang family.  Considering that they lived hundreds of years ago, that’s a pretty big claim!  

The family originated with Kang Ying-Kui in the Ming Dynasty, and its fame lasted more than 400 years (that’s 13 generations!).  According to a monument inside, the family was famous not only for its wealth, but also for its honor. The monument is a plaque written by an emperor honoring the Kangs for having 8 generations of “good, noble, honest sons.”  Apparently, they were loyal, fair, honest, and not corrupt–well worth honoring!


Kang Ying-Kui came to fame by suppressing Bailianism (a so-called the White Lotus Religion– mixed Buddhism with Taoism and worshipped a goddess Wusheng Laomu).  The group didn’t fit in with the accepted religions of the time and allowed men and women to “interact in a shockingly free manner.” 😛 (Apparently they brought a bunch of “groups” together and were a threat of rebellion.  Anyway,  the Kangs were really fashionable and already pretty rich from their own business (river transportation and agricultural products).  There was some sort of phrase like “if you travel 1000 miles you’ll still be on Kang property).  This brought them to the notice of the royal family who helped raise them up even further. 


Inside, there are 19 different parts and about 65,000 square meters.  There are 53 multi-story buildings, 97 “bungalows,” 73 cave homes, and approximately 570 rooms in total.  It was built in the 17th – 18th centuries (1600s-1700s), and the architecture is in the form of the North China “Loess plateau” style.  Basically, that means it was in the era’s feudalistic form (many small buildings with hundreds of carvings and art in the wooden, brick, and stone beams.  It follow strict formality and traditionalism–“building face the street, ports on the river, cave dwellings in the mountains–everything according to its place and order.” In the 1960s and 1970s, their home was one of the 3 largest in China–today it’s the only one of the three that is open to the public. 

Admissions: 30RMB (about $4.50)

Anyone 60 years or older get 1/2 their tickets (I think?).  People 70 years or older aree free.  Full time students can have 1/2 price and children under 1.4 meters are free. People with disability cards are free, as are servicemen and disabled veterans. 

Opening hours: 8:00-18:30

2. Take NO.11 bus in Gongyi city to terminal station (1 Yuan) and then transfer to Kangdian town by minibus (1 Yuan).
Website: Here

Gongyi Grottos


Fabulous! The Gongyi Grottos is a Buddhist temple created around the Northern Wei period of 479-499 AD.  The statues though are as old as 384 – around the 600s AD.  There is the nearby Longmen Grottos in Luoyang, but the Gongyi set is somewhat more well preserved (although not quite so large). 


To be honest, a lot of the younger people were quickly bored here — but as a historian and cultural student, I found the place truly fascinating.  They have one very elaborate, colored and painted temple area with a tall statue surrounding by the various Buddhist deities on either side.  All set in beautiful painted depictions of myths and stories. 


All in all, it was a lovely day full of awesome art, history, and culture. My favorite kind of trip!

Dragon Boat FestivaL Cpmes Again!

Happy Dragon Boat Festival!  Today in #China we are celebrating the Duanwu #端午 festival!  It’s been a Holiday here for more than 2000 years!

It celebrates the Famous #poet #quyuan. Devoted to #China 🇨🇳, he wrote beautiful poems about its history, nature, and people. When the invading Qin armies approached, he chose to drown himself rather than see his beloved country fall.  Although they sent out many #dragon boats to look for him, they could not save him in time. 
 So to commemorate his memory, every year they eat  #粽子 (aka Zongzi), a sticky #rice #treat wrapped in banana leaves. And the big cities send out Dragon #boats for big battles and races on the lakes and rivers! Cool!