June 14, 2021
The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival (端午节) is an annual festival celebrated in China and in Chinese communities around the world. The festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar; This year, the Dragon Boat Festival falls on June 14, 2021.
The Dragon Boat Festival originated from events during China’s Warring States Period (476-221 BC). According to the legend, there was a Minister from the State of Chu who advocated defending the State of Chu by waging war against the oppressive State of Qin. This minister’s name was Qu Yuan (屈原).
At first the people of Chu and other states supported Qu Yuan, but as time passed, the King of Chu disapproved of the war plan. To express his disapproval, the King exiled Qu Yuan. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote various patriotic poems that expressed his love and vision for his country. Among these poems written by Qu Yuan is the renown “The Lament” (离骚, Li Sao), loosely translated as ‘encountering sorrow’.
When the State of Qin began to gain ground and eventually conquered all the other states, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River in 278 BC. It is said that Qu Yuan loved his country so much that he would rather die than see it fall into the hands of the Qin.
Dragon Boat Festival is traditionally associated with dragon boat races, and the preparing and eating of rice dumplings or Zongzi (粽子)
Folklore has it that the local people who admired Qu Yuan threw food into the river to feed the fishes so that they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body. This is said to be the origin of Zongzi. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is believed to be the origin of dragon boat racing.
Zongzi (粽子) are sticky rice dumplings that are filled with rice, beans, and other ingredients. These are traditionally wrapped in bamboo leaves. The flavor and texture of Zongzi vary greatly depending on regional cuisine and the individual chef’s creativity and skills.
Today, the festival is marked by competitive dragon boat races, and festive meals centered around Zongzi.