The Dragon Boat Festival of China also called Duanwu Festival or Tuen Ng is a traditional Chinese holiday that is observed close to the summer solstice.

This is called the Zhongxiao Festival and is held in the honor of Qu Yuan, who was a renowned scholar in China. Being celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, this day is also known as the Double Fifth Festival.

As this festival is based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, the date on which it is celebrated varies from one year to another. It is also called the Fifth Day Festival or the Fifth Month Festival or the Dumpling Festival in Singapore and Malaysia.

  • History

In most parts of Modern China, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to mark the death of the minister and poet Qu Yuan of the medieval state of Chu of Zhou Dynasty. Being a cadet member of Chu Royal House, Qu Yuan served in the high ranking offices. When the king decided to form an ally with the rising influential state of Qin, Qu Yuan was banished for opposing the decision and was even accused of treachery.

During his banishment period, he has written a lot of poems and just as he had feared, after 28 years Qin eventually captured the capital of Chu, Ying. In utter despair, Qu Yuan took his life by drowning himself in Miluo River. According to the legend, the people who admired and respected him raced their boats in the river to save his life or at least to recover his body. This is believed to be the origin of the Dragon Boat Races.

After immense searching when his body was nowhere to be found, the people dropped sticky rice balls into the river to feed the fishes so that they wouldn’t feed on his body and from this Zongzi originated. However in the former territory of Wu, this day is held in the honor of Wu Zixu. Following an evil plan, the Emperor of Yue, King Goujian, had sent a woman with bewitching beauty, Xishi, to lure King Fuchai. King had undoubtedly fallen for her and Wu Zixu realizing King Goujian’s cruel intention had warned him. Infuriated by Wu Zixu’s comment, King Fuchai forced him to commit suicide and then dumped his body into the river on the fifth day of fifth month.

Thus this day is celebrated in the honor of Wu Zixu in the southeast Jiangsu. Yet again in the cities of Ningbo, Shaoxing and Zhoushan, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated remembering a young girl called Cao E. Her father, Cao Xu, had fallen into the Shun River accidentally while presiding over the ceremony held in the honor of Wu Zixu during Duanwu Festival. Cao E tried to search for her father in the river for three days. On the fifth day both of them were found dead due to drowning and from that day onwards this day was observed in Cao E’s remembrance and for her ultimate sacrifice.

  • Present Day Celebration

On this day people are seen to have wine and feast on rice dumplings. Many people also race Dragon boats on this day and it’s a tradition to hang figures of Zhong Kui, a mythological guardian entity. It is also a custom to write spells, take long walks and wear medicine bags which are perfumed. All the activities mentioned along with the ancient games like making an egg stand erect were considered to be the ways of driving away evil spirits and preventing diseases and bringing about prosperity. On this day the citizens of China throw cooked rice wrapped in bamboo leaves into the water as an age old tradition. Moreover it is a tradition to have dumplings and tzungtzu on this special occasion.