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Chinese Dragon Boat Festival
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

Dragon Boat Festival

For all the Chinese people, the traditional Dragon Boat Festival (duān wǔ jié 端午节) is coming on May 28th this year. The Dragon Boat Festival has been one of the most important traditional festivals in China. During the festival, people celebrated it in various ways, even in modern China. After this traditional festival’s added to the schedule of national holidays by the government in 2008, people have much more time to celebrate it with their families, friends, and experience the cultural meaning of this festival.

 Why Dragon Boat Festival?

dragon boatThe Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the Double Fifth day, falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, usually comes at the beginning of summer. During the festival, there would be a long, canoe style boat with decorative Chinese dragon head and tail used in the dragon boat racing. Dragon boat races are traditionally held as part of the annual Duanwu observance in China. Dragon boat festival racing, like Duanwu, is observed and celebrated in many areas of east Asia with significant populations of ethnic Chinese living there. Since the dragon boat racing is the most popular and well-know celebrating program held during the festival, it got the name of the dragon boat festival.

 0rigin of the Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is believed to have originated in ancient China. There are different versions of the origin of the dragon boat festival. Today the most widely known legend relates to the poignant saga of a Chinese court official named Qu Yuan (qū yuán 屈原).
Qu YuanIt is said that Qu lived in the pre-imperial Warring State period (475-221 BC). Qu Yuan is popularly regarded as a minister in one of the Warring State governments, the southern state of Chu (present day Hunan and Hubei provinces), a champion of political loyalty and integrity, and eager to maintain the Chu state's autonomy and hegemony. Formerly, it was believed that the Chu king fell under the influence of other corrupt, jealous ministers who slandered Qu Yuan as 'a sting in flesh', and therefore the fooled king banished Qu.
Being worried about his beloved country and hopeless for the corrupted government, Qu committed suicide by drowning himself into the river on the fifth day of the fifth month.

ZongziThe common people, upon learning the news of his suicidal, hurried to the river in hope of saving this loyal person, but found nothing. They beat drums and splashed water with their paddles in order to keep the fish from his body. Some people just scattered a kind of rice into the river so that the fish would not eat Qu’s body, it’s believed as the origin of The Dragon Boat Festival is believed to have originated in ancient China.

Food for the Dragon Boat Festival:

Zongzi (zòng zi 粽子) , also known as rice dumpling, is a traditional Chinese food eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival. Zongzi is made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. The shape of Zongzi ranges from relatively tetrahedral to cylindrical.
ZongziChinese families used to make Zongzi themselves, and also gave friends as a gift. Many families would prepare the materials needed for making Zongzi a few weeks before the festival. Reed leaves are the wrapping of Zongzi, they are freshly green with special plant smell. Inside the wrapping are the glutinous rice (also called the sticky rice or sweet rice) with fillings like jujube, red-cooked pork, salted duck eggs and so on. Zongzi needed to be steamed or boiled for several hours depending on the rice and fillings. Once cooked, Zongzi can be frozen for later consumption. Nowadays, the frozen Zongzi are available for sale in many Chinese supermarkets at any time as you want.




Three of the most wide spread activities for the Dragon Boat Festival are racing dragon boat, eating Zongzi, and drinking Realgar Wine.

Dragon Boat Race

Dragon Boat Race

Dragon Boat Race (sài lóng zhōu 赛龙舟) is the most important activity during the Dragon Boat Festival. It is quite popular in the South part of China. The Dragon Boat Race which originated in China over 2ooo years ago is a traditional Chinese water sports entertainment. Size of the dragon boat varies from place to place. Competition is within the specified distance, competitors start at the same time, and decide who wins according to their finish time. All ethnic groups in China is slightly different from the dragon boat race. Han multi-annual "Dragon Boat Festival" held on 20-30 meters for the master general, each of about 30 sailors on board。Competing teams drive their colorful dragon boats forward to the rhythm of beating drums.

Eating Zongzi and Drinking Realgar Wine

Realgar WineA very popular dish during the Dragon Boat Festival is Zongzi. This tasty food consists of rice dumplings with jujube, meat and other fillings wrapped with reed leaves or bamboos. Every Chinese family eat Zongzi during the festival, and give their friends zongzi made by themselves, it’s considered as the most important and well known activity for the festival, which is still popular among Chinese people now.
Many Chinese consider this time of year an especially dangerous time when extra efforts must be made to protect their family from illness. The drinking of Realgar Wine(xiónghuáng jiǔ 雄黄酒) is thought to remove poisons from the body. It can protect people from getting ill. When the festival is coming, some Chinese people would prepare this kind of wine for their families to Fragrant Bagavoid illness and evil spirits.

Other common activities include hanging up icons of Zhong Kui(zhōng kuí 钟馗), hanging up mugwort and calamus and wearing perfumed medicine bags. All of these activities, together with the drinking of Realgar Wine, are designed to ward off disease or evil.

The Dragon Boat Festival in Modern China

Ever since 2008, the Dragon Boat Festival has become a Chinese statutory holiday,there are 3 days holiday for this festival.Chinese people keep those traditional activities like preparing and eating Zongzi, dragon boat racing, and also have much more time to go traveling or get back hometown and be together with thier families.This festival with a long long history gives mordern Chinese people a chance to fully appreciate the culture meaning of the festival.By the way, for many young Chinee people,they prefer to going shopping and driving to the surbub of the city to spend this Dragon Boat Festival.

Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

                          Best Wishes from



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