5 June 2019
On Friday 7 June, an important festival of the Chinese calendar is celebrated: the dragon boat festival (Duanwu Jie). This is the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese calendar.
Legend of Qu Yuan
The festival commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan from the third century. He lived in Chu and was a highly knowledgeable man who faithfully and diligently served the interests of the state. He was adored by the entire population. Qu Yuan’s wisdom and intellectual ways antagonized other court officials, thus they accused him of false charges of conspiracy and was exiled by the king. After he was exiled, he chose to drown himself in the river rather than seeing his country invaded and conquered by the State of Qin.
The people instigated a search for him. To distract the fish in the water, they threw rice and leaves into the water. An anaesthetized dragon was floated to the surface, a fragment of Qu Yuan’s garment hanging from one of its whiskers. The people believed that this dragon had killed Qu Yuan.
Qu Yuan drowned himself on the 5th day of the 5th month, and so the Chinese have designated this day as a holiday commemorating the loyal and dedicated patriot Qu Yuan. The event is commemorated with boat races throughout the country. During this holiday, people mainly eat Zongzi with family members and friends. People traditionally wrap Zongzi in leaves of reed, lotus or banana forming a pyramid shape. The leaves are giving a special aroma and flavour to the sticky rice and fillings. Other traditional customs are hanging Chinese mugwort and calamus on the door, drinking realgar wine and wearing perfume pouches.
The dragon boat is a special festival because this is one of the few public holidays in China that are celebrated on the streets. The Chinese New Year and the Moon Festival are celebrated with relatives and family. It is an ideal event to visit as a foreign visitor. Another name for this day is ‘Poets Festival’.