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Chinese Custom--014: Dragon Boat Festival's Origin & Custom
Yesterday was the Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu jie) in China, I wrote something about it for you and hope it is some help with you to learn more about China and Chinese cultures. :-)


Dragon Boat Festival also names Duwu Festival ( Dunw Ji). It has been a traditional festival in China for about 2300 years already. Since 2008, it has become a national vacation in of China.

Dragon Boat Festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar on Chinese calendar. Today, June 23 is the Dragon Boat Festival in 2012.

The main food, drink and activity on Dragon Boat Festival are:

Rice Dumplings -- (zng zi )
Realgar Wine   -- ? (Xinghung ji)
Racing Dragon Boats -- si lngzhu

The Origin of the Dragon Boat:

There are many different versions about the origin of the dragon boats festival, the best known of these relates to the Qu Yuans suicide in 278 B.C.in Chu kingdom during the Period of Warring States 475-221 B.C.

Qu Yuan -- ԭ (Q Yun )(340 B.C. ? 278 B.C.) is the first great poet in Chinese poetry and literature history. He is regarded as the first author of verse in China to have his name associated to his work.

Qu Yuan lived in the period of Warring States Period in Chu Kingdom in ancient China. He is famous for his contributions to the poetry collection known as the Chu-ci.
His long poem Li Sao is the most well-known of the Chu-ci poems.

As a patriot and a high official in Chu, Qu Yuan argued against the police to make alliance with Qin State, which threatened to dominate all the other countries, but he   advocated to make alliance with the other kingdoms.
However, the king fell under the influence of those corrupt and jealous ministers who slandered Qu Yuan, so that he was exiled.

During the time he was exiled, he wrote many poems to express his fervent love for his state and his deepest concerns for its future, after twenty-eight years later, in 278 B.C.   Qin conquered the capital of Chu Kingdom.

In the despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River in todays Hubei province on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

It is said that the local people, who admired him, dropped sticky rice triangles wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river to feed Qu Yuan in the afterlife. The rice was wrapped so that fish would not eat the rice meant to be eaten in Qu Yuan's afterlife.This is said to be the origin of zongzi.

The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, carried their dumplings and boats to the middle of the river and desperately tried to save Qu Yuan after he immersed himself in the Miluo River, but were too late to do so. However, in order to keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, they beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles, This is said to be the origine of Racing Dragon Boat.

Late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends and told them that he died because he had taken himself under the river. Then, he asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon.

Now Zongzi and dragon boat races have become the regular events on Duanwu. The countries around China, such as Vietnam and Korea, also celebrate the festival.


If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, you are welcome to write to shirley@ebridge.cn or leave your message on Message Board.

Shirley Yiping Zhang
June 21, 2015(Chinese Time)