The Dragon Boat Festival (端午节)is one of the most important festivals in China. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, it occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month, which lands on June 14th this year.

The festival originated in ancient China from the worship of the dragon totem of the celestial constellations, but later it was combined with several folk legends, with the most popular one being related to a famous patriotic poet, Qu Yuan. 

Qu Yuan was the number one advisor of the Kingdom of Chu during the warring states period. He advised the king to make an alliance with the Kingdom of Qi in order to fight against the most powerful state, the state of Qin. Jealous officials seized this opportunity to oust Qu Yuan by unjustly accusing him of treason. The king was fooled, and Qu Yuan was sent into exile. 

sticky rice dumplings

Qu Yuan maintained his love of country in exile and wrote many poems which are still famous to this day. Eventually, however, the Kingdom of Qin invaded the Kingdom of Qi as Qu Yuan had feared. Distraught, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Mi Lo River. 

Qu Yuan, was deeply loved and honored by the people, so upon learning of his death the locals set out to find his body. They rowed up and down the river searching, but to no avail. In an attempt to preserve his body, the people resorted to saving it from fish and evil spirits. They rowed up and down the river, hitting the water with their oars and playing drums to scare off the evil spirits. They also threw clumps of sticky rice into the river for the fish to feed on, in hopes that they wouldn’t eat Qu Yuan’s body. 

sticky rice dumplings
Chinese culture-dragon boat racing

Since then, a festival has been held on the same day each year to commemorate Qu Yuan. Rowing the paddle boats developed into a tradition of dragon boat racing (赛龙舟)and sticky rice dumplings (吃粽子)became the characteristic food of this festival. 

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