The Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Festival, (端午节) is one of the most significant festivals celebrated in China. As it is with most of these festivals, many legends, customs and practices are tied to the Dragon Boat Festival. Being celebrated for more than 2.000 years, the festival is most noted and recognized for its educational purpose and influence and is held annually to commemorate Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet that lived 340-278 BC.
Furthermore, the festival serves as a means for the people of China to strengthen their bodies and to rid themselves of diseases. The following paragraphs will provide you with background information on the Dragon Boat Festival, as well as an overview of the customs and traditions tied to the festival. Finally, you will get some information on how Chinese people are celebrating the festival today.
The History of the Dragon Boat Festival:
The Legend of Qu Yuan
Alternative names: Duanwu Festival, Tuen Ng or Double Fifth Festival. In the early years of the Republic of China, it was also called “Poet’s Day”
Qu Yuan (340 – 278 BC) was a minister in the State of Chu, which was one of the Warring States Period during the Zhou Dynasty, and served in high offices. As the king decided to ally with the State of Qin, Qu Yuan changed sides and decided to fight against Qin, together with the State of Qi. However, he was slandered by an aristocrat and subsequently was exiled by the king with the accusation of treason.
Qu Yuan is most noted for his poetry, with which he shows his love and passion for his country. In 278 BC, after having finished his famous last poem Huai Sha (Embracing the Sand), legend has it, that he drowned himself in the Miluo River as a last sign of resistance against the occupation of the country by the State of Qin. Here are the last two paragraphs of that poem:
I must curb my rebelling pride and check my anger,
Restrain my heart, and force myself to bow.
I have met sorrow, but still will be unswerving;
I wish my resolution to be an example.
Along my road I will go, and in the north halt my journey.
But the day is dusky and turns towards the evening.
I will unlock my sorrow and ease my grief,
And end it all in the Great End.