Origins and traditions of Dragon Boat Festival

Updated: 2014-06-02
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Children show off their Zongzi making efforts at a kindergarten in Puyang, Henan province. Tong Jiang / for China Daily
A look at the origins and traditions of Duanwu Festival and how people celebrate across the country

Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu, is one of the three most important traditional Chinese festivals, the other two being the Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn.

There are several stories that explain the festival's origin and the most popularly accepted tale is that Duanwu started to commemorate Qu Yuan, a minister and poet of the Chu Kingdom in the Warring States Period (475-221BC).

It is said that Qu antagonized officials, was accused of treason and was exiled by the king. In despair he committed suicide by jumping into the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

Local admirers raced out in boats to try and save him and when he was not found people dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so fish would eat them instead of his body.

For these reasons people celebrate the festival by holding dragon boat races and eating Zongzi, sticky rice snacks filled with savory and sweet fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

People also use herbs, such as Ay Tsao, to hang in their homes or have baths with to protect from illness and drink realgar wine, which was allegedly poured into the river to poison monsters and protect Qu.

China Daily photographed some traditional festival celebrations to share with our readers.
A villager installs the head of a dragon boat in preparation for its maiden trip in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. Villagers hope the boat will bring luck to the village. Gao Dianhua / for China Daily
A dragon boat team works hard in an annual contest in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. More than 10 teams from several cities in Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macao participated in the competition. Wu Jun / for China Daily
Wang Yawen practices arrow shooting, which is one of the traditions of Duanwu, near the Yellow River in Lanzhou, Gansu province. Chen Bin / Xinhua
Young parents bathe their children in water with Ay Tsao to protect them from illness in Zigui, Hubei province, Qu Yuan's hometown. Zheng Jiayu / Xinhua
A teacher puts realgar wine on his pupil's head with Ay Tsao in a ceremony to celebrate the festival in Nantong, Jiangsu province. Xu Peiqin / Xinhua
SOURCE: China Daily
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