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The Story Behind the Dragon Boat Festival

The Story Behind the Dragon Boat Festival

June 07, 2024

The Story Behind the Dragon Boat Festival



The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the calendar. It has a rich and a fascinating story behind it.


Legend has it that more than 2,000 years ago during the Warring States period in China, there lived a famous poet and statesman named Qu Yuan. He was a loyal patriot who deeply loved his country and its people. However, he was deeply saddened and frustrated by the corruption and turmoil that plagued the government.





Qu Yuan expressed his concerns and criticized the rulers through his poetry, which made him unpopular among the officials. Eventually, he was exiled by the king, forced to leave his homeland and wander the countryside. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote many great poems that reflected his love for his country and his despair at its state.


In 278 BC, when Qu Yuan heard that his homeland had been invaded by a neighboring state, he was filled with grief and sadness. Consumed by his emotions, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Miluo River, ending his life. The local people who loved and respected Qu Yuan admired his patriotism and bravery. In an attempt to protect his body from being eaten by fish and evil spirits, they rowed out in boats, beating drums and splashing the water with their paddles to scare away the creatures.


To honor the memory of Qu Yuan, the Dragon Boat Festival was established. It became a time for people to remember the sacrifices made by Qu Yuan and to pay tribute to him. Nowadays, the festival is celebrated with various activities, the most prominent of which is the dragon boat races.





Dragon boat racing has become the highlight of the festival, with teams of rowers paddling in long wooden boats, decorated in the shape of dragons, to the beating of drums. The races are not only exhilarating to watch but also serve as a reminder of the people's solidarity and the power of collaboration. The dragon boat races symbolize the collective effort of the community to rescue Qu Yuan and the unity of the people in the face of adversity.





In addition to dragon boat races, people also engage in other traditional customs during the Dragon Boat Festival. The most well-known one is eating zongzi, a glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves. It is believed that throwing zongzi into the water during the festival can keep evil spirits away and bring good luck.


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