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Chinese Culture >> Chinese Traditions, Society >> Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival, commonly called Duanwujie in Chinese, as it is celebrated on the 5th of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Duanwu means the 5th of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, and jie means festival, hence the name. For thousands of years, this traditional festival has been passed down from one generation to the next. It has been marked by eating zongzi (steamed glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves) and racing dragon boats.

The Origin of The
Dragon Boat Festival

About the origin of the
Duanwu Festival, the most popular explanation among the ordinary Chinese people is that it was derived from the activities of commemorating a great patriot poet, Qu Yuan. The story about Qu Yuan has been deeply rooted in Chinese culture and this festival, and passed down for more than 2,000 years. So it is definitely a very important factor for the origin of the festival.

But since some of the well-known traditions of the festival already existed even before Qu Yuan, other origins of the festival were also suggested. One explanation is that the Dragon Boat Festival originated from people's worship of dragons. In ancient China, people believed the dragon was the god in charge of water, which was vitally important to daily life and agricultural production. On the way of
Duanwu, people raced dragon boats to entertain the god and offered him zongzi as a treat. The sole purpose was to please the god to ensure a year of favorable weather. Another view is that the festival originated from the taboo of evil days. The fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar is traditionally considered as evil month and the 5th of the month is particularly a bad day, so a lot of taboo had been developed.

Most likely, the festival was gradually derived from all of the suggestions and the story of Qu Yuan is certainly the driving power to make it a great festival today.

Major Activities of The
Dragon Boat Festival

The celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival consists of the two major activities - eating
zongzi and racing dragon boats. Zongzi is the most popular food for the festival. The dragon boat races are the most popular activity during the festival, especially in Southern China.

Ancient Chinese believed that the day of
Duanwu was unlucky because midsummer was just around corner. The hot weather used to bring various diseases, which could spread rampant-ly. Dispelling disease and driving out evil were the main purpose of the festival. People would paste on their front doors postures of Zhongkuiï¼OEa legendary Chinese ghost-catcher. People would also use cattail and mugwort leaves to drive away mosquitoes and other insects.

Since children are generally the most vulnerable to disease, they received extra care at this special time. Children would wear necklaces or bracelets, made of red, yellow, blue, white and black threads, to keep evil away from them. They would also receive colorful pouches containing fragrant herbal medicines as presents. They hung these around their necks, and would compete with one another to see whose pouch had the finest needlework. Mothers also made sure to battle their children in water boiled with herbal medicines. Modern science has proven that these medicines are, in fact, quite beneficial to health.

Ancient Chinese believed realgar was an antidote for all poisons, and therefore most effective to drive away evil spirits and kill insects. So everyone would drink some realgar wine during the
Duanwu Festival, and children would have the Chinese character for "King" written on their foreheads with realgar wine.

Find more facts about the Dragon Boat Festival