Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival, aka Duanwu Festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the 5th lunar month. It is a traditional festival for Chinese people. On that day, people will eat Zongzi (rice dumplings), do dragon boat racing, and drink Realgar wine. There are many legends related to the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival, and the most popular version is about Qu Yuan, a minister during the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC).

Zongzi, Cuisine for Dragon Boat FestivalZongzi, Cuisine for Dragon Boat Festival

Origin of the Dragon Boat Festival

Qu Yuan is an intelligent man who served as a minister in the Warring States Period. He was loved by the common people. He had different ideas from other officials on politics, so he earned more and more envy and anger from other officials. In the end, Qu Yuan was exiled for several years. On hearing that his country was defeated, he fell into despair and threw himself into the Miluo River when he was exiled to Hunan Province.

As he was so loved by the people, on hearing this news, the local people took their boats to try to retrieve his corpse. They also threw Zong Zi into the river to feed fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan's body. So, eating Zongzi and dragon boat racing are two activities to commemorate the great man Qu Yuan.

Customs of the Dragon Boat Festival

Starting from that time to this day, people commemorate Qu Yuan through Dragon Boat Races, eating zongzi, and several other activities, on the anniversary of his death: the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat races are the most exciting part of the festival, especially in the southern part of China. Generally speaking, the dragon boats are painted in bright colors, such as red, yellow, and green. It is normally from 50 to 100 feet in length, the boat’s head is shaped like an open-mouthed dragon, and the boat’s end is shaped like a dragon’s scaly tail. Depending on the boat’s length, 60 rowers can row the boat. A drummer and a bannerman will stand at the front of the boat. The regatta is so cutthroat. Every boat wants to be number one. The winner will be awarded things like banners, and jugs of wine. 

Eating Zongzi

The most traditional food for the Dragon Boat Festival is Zong Zi,  a special Chinese dumpling. Zongzi is a glutinous rice ball filled with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. The fillings can be an egg, beans, dates, fruits, sweet potato, walnuts, mushrooms, meat, or a combination of them. The steamed Zong Zi is very delicious!


Drinking Xiong Huang Wine

As the Dragon Boat Festival is at the beginning of summer, when diseases are likely to strike, people also drink realgar wine to fend off bad things. Adults may drink Xiong Huang Wine, and children carry fragrant silk pouches, all of which can prevent evil.
If your China tour falls on lunar May, don’t miss the festivity at this traditional festival - the Dragon Boat Festival.

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