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What Is Dragon Boat Festival

The Origins Of The Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival and its tragic origins (Hello China #33)

The Dragon Boat Festival has a tragic origin story. Many centuries ago, the famous poet Qu Yuan was exiled during the Warring States Period. Its said his patriotic poems led to his exile. He was so upset he walked into the Miluo River and drowned himself.

The local people rowed out on boats to try to recover his body, but with no luck. When they realized they were too late, they threw sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves to try and distract the evil spirits from devouring his body.

The race to rescue Qus body since turned into the famous dragon boat races. The rice dumplings became the zongzi which youll find everywhere in China during the week leading up to the holiday.

Similar to Qingming, its not necessarily the happiest of festivals. I was told by my Chinese teacher that it isnt really appropriate to wish people a happy Dragon Boat Festival.

Explainer: Everything You Need To Know About Dragon Boat Festival

10 June 2021

Traditionally, Dragon Boat Festival takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This year the festival, also known as Duan Wu Jie , falls on 14 June.

Because its one of the oldest and most traditional Chinese festivals, there are many competing explanations about its origins. However, all of them involve some combination of dragons, spirits, loyalty, and food some of the most important traditions in China.

Dr Erin Thomason, from the Department of China Studies of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University, explains that Dragon Boat Festival has two primary meanings for local people: the first is for warding off evil and bringing health and good luck the second is to honour the historical hero, Qu Yuan.

May good luck be with you

The theme of warding off evil and keeping diseases, pests and drought away can be traced back to folk ideas surrounding the number five . The number is thought to carry bad luck because of its similarity in pronunciation to the character wu , explains Dr Thomason.

According to the Eastern Han Dynasty book Shuowen Jiezi by Shen Xu, the character wu is considered the cross point of yin and yang. This intersection is thought to be when the human body is at its weakest and more susceptible to toxic substances.

Lets go dragon boat racing

Eat zongzi

Dragon Boat festival in the contemporary world

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What Is Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon boating is a fun-filled, adrenaline pumping, water sports activity. Teams compete in Dragon Boats, which are large canoe-like vessels fitted with ornately carved dragon’s heads and tails.

Crews of up to 16 people sit in pairs and paddle to compete in races over distances of around 250m. Each boat has a drummer beating time to keep the paddlers in unison, and a professional helmsperson in the stern to guide the boat.

Originating in ancient China, Dragon Boat Racing is now the fastest growing water sport in the world and a favourite among charities and corporations for its fundraising and team-building benefits.

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Avoiding Dad Luck In The Fifth Month

Another possible explanation for the origins of the festival is linked to superstitions surrounding the date on which it falls. As noted above, the Dragon Boat Festival is also called the Double Fifth Festival because it falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month.

Traditionally, the fifth lunar month was considered to be an unlucky time. People in certain regions of China believed that during this month, the dreaded five poisonous animals , started to come out of their winter hiding places.

In ancient China, the fifth lunar month was associated with the emergence of five types of poisonous animals.

Traditionally, the animals referred to as wdú included centipedes, poisonous snakes, scorpions, lizards and toads. To safeguard themselves during this time, ancient people practiced rituals such as poking pictures of the five poisonous animals with pins, which was believed to render their real-life counterparts harmless.

In addition to the threat posed by the reemergence of poisonous animals, it was also believed that people were more prone to falling ill around this time.

Over the years, various traditions emerged to help ensure that people were protected from illness and bad luck during the dreaded Double Fifth. One such tradition that has survived to this day and is still incorporated into modern Dragon Boat Festival celebrations is the custom of hanging mugwort and calamus branches on ones door to ward off evil spirits.

Awakening Of The Dragons: Boat Blessing And Eye Dotting Ceremony

Dragon Boat Festival brings ancient tradition to ...

Each year, the Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival honours the ancient Chinese traditions behind dragon boat racing with traditional Eye Dotting and Dragon Boat Blessing Ceremony. We invite priests and members of the congregation of the Evergreen Taoist Church to the waters of False Creek to conduct this ancient and colourful ritual.

The dragon boats dressed with ornate dragon heads and tails are lined up. The chanting begins. The priests invoke the Goddess of the Sea, the Saints and the Immortals through chanting, invocation and burning joss sticks. This cleanses and blesses the racecourse, the competitors and their boats and charges all with the strength of the dragon. The priests make offerings to the five elements and directions: joss sticks representing wood for the east, flowers representing metal for the west, candles representing fire for the south, water representing its elemental self for the north and fruit representing the earth for the centre.

Ancient Chinese dragon mythology has it that the dragon sleeps in the mountains, and travels to the water at the moment when the eyes of the dragon are dotted. Guest dignitaries assist in this rite, dipping brushes in pots of red cinnabar paint and dabbing the eyes on the boats dragon heads.

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Wrapping And Eating Sticky Rice Dumplings

Due to the legend of Qu Yuan, Sticky Rice Dumpling are a traditional food eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival. They are made of glutinous rice filled with meats, beans and other fillings, and wrapped with bamboo or reed leaves into a triangular shape . Many Chinese families have their own family recipes for wrapping the dumplings, often passed down from generations.

Traditions Of The Dragon Boat Festival

Legend has it that the holiday honours the tragic death of Chu Yuan, who died in 288 BC. At the time of Warring States, Chu Yuan was a poet and the minister of the state. The King was captured during fighting and in honour and remembrance of the old King, Chu Yuan wrote a poem called Li Soa. This angered the new King, who ordered Chu Yuan into exile. Instead of leaving his beloved country, Chu Yuan threw himself into the Mi-Lo River.

The legend proclaims that the people tried to rescue their honoured statesmen by chasing him down the river, beating drums to scare away the fish and throwing dumplings into the river so that the fish would not eat his body. Todays celebrations symbolize the vain attempts of the friends and citizens who raced down the river to save Chu Yuan.

The Dragon Boat Festival is also known as poets day as Chu Yuan is widely regarded as Chinas first poet. Chu spent his time in exile writing poems to express his anger and sadness.

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Eating Sticky Rice Dumplings

Zongzi is the most traditional Dragon Boat Festival food. It is related to Qu Yuan commemoration, as the legend says that lumps of rice were thrown into the river to stop fish eating his drowned body.

They are a kind of sticky rice dumpling made of glutinous rice filled with meats, beans, and other fillings.

Zongzi is wrapped in triangle or rectangle shapes in bamboo or reed leaves, and tied with soaked stalks or colorful silky cords.

The flavors of zongzi are usually different from one region to another across China. Read more on Zongzi.

Dragon Boat Festival 2021

Dragon Boat Festival origins: A tribute to great poet

Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Jie, is a traditional festival and celebrated in China and the Asian region.

Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated annually on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This year, it falls on 14 June and China will have three days public holiday from Saturday 12 June to Monday 14 June. During this long weekend, many will take the chance to travel to celebrate the festival with friends and family and visit major attractions.

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The Festival Is Listed In The Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage Of Humanity After A Minor International Incident

Prior to South Korea nominating the Gangneung Danoje Festival as an intangible cultural heritage property to Unesco’s list, the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival was not formally under Unescos protection. South Koreas move to nominate their own festival in 2005 sparked an uproar amongst the Chinese over the festival’s origin. Later in 2009, the Dragon Boat Festival was eventually added to the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Origin And History Of Dragon Boat Festival

As a traditional festival originated from south China, the Dragon Boat Festival history in China is over 2,000 years long. People from different regions hold various ideas on the festival’s origin and history, and the most popular saying is the legend associated with the great poet in Warring States Period . Hereunder is a chronology of Dragon Boat Festival origins related to celebrities in ancient China.

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Origin Story About State Advisor Wu Zixu

In some places of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces, the Dragon Boat Festival history was dated to the time of Wu Zixu in Spring and Autumn Period . Wu Zixu was a loyal statesman to his sovereign. His father and brother were killed by the King of Chu, so he sought refuge in Wu Kingdom and help the King crusade against Chu King. After defeating Chu, a new Wu emperor Fuchai came to the throne after his father’s death, but he didn’t value Wu Zixu’s talents. He was convinced of other treacherous courtiers’ slanders about Wu Zixu’s guilt of treason, and eventually, Wu Zixu was forced to commit suicide with a sword. His body was thrown into river on the fifth day of May on lunar calendar. To engrave his loyalty and spirit, people fixed the day in honor of him.

The Origin And Customs Of The Dragon Boat Festival

Qualita Co., Ltd.: [ Festival in Taiwan ] Dragon Boat Festival

The fifth day of the fifth lunar month is the Duanwu Festival, also known as the Dragon Boat Festival and the Duanyang Festival. It is one of the three most important festivals in China, with the other two of course being Mid-Autumn Festival and Spring Festival.

Before the Spring and Autumn Period, Dragon Boat Festival was a festival of disease and epidemic prevention. Later, after the patriotic poet Qu Yuan died for his country on this day, the Dragon Boat Festival turned into a festival in which Han Chinese pay homage to the Qu and remember the Chinese nations noble sentiments. According to historical records, in 278 BC , on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month,when the patriotic poet Qu , a minister of the State of Chu heard the news that Qin Jun had broken the capital of Chu, he was infuriated and threw himself into the Miluo River to express his sorrow with his death. The people along the river rowed boats in order to salvage his body and tried to call back his spirit, they also put rice and meat into the river to prevent fish and shrimp from encroaching on his dead body.

This practice has continued for more than two thousand years and the annual the fifth day of the fifth lunar month has become a traditional festival to commemorate Qu.

As the customs vary from place to place, what are the special customs of Dragon Boat Festival in your hometown? D& P Group wishes you all a happy Dragon Boat Festival and to enjoy Zongzi with your family.

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Interesting Things About The Dragon Boat Festival

1. There exist a lot of legends about the Dragon Boat Festival, but actually, the customs of the festival stem from a ceremony of Heaven worship, which pre-dates the commemoration of the ancient poet Qu Yuan.

2. The ancient poet, Qu Yuan, and his patriotism are deeply rooted in peoples minds therefore, his story is related to this festival.

3. In northern China, people like to climb a mountain during the Dragon Boat Festival, which has a longer history than just the Dragon Boat Race.

4. Zongzi is a typical food enjoyed during the Dragon Boat Festival. Every family soaks bamboo leaves and glutinous rice and wraps them to make zongzi. This custom has even spread to North Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia from China.

5. The idea of rowing the dragon boat is derived from the ancient sacrificial activities in the south of China to pray for a kind climate and the best weather.

6. The earliest record of Dragon Boat in the Chinese language can be found in an ancient book in the Pre-Qin Period.

7. The Dragon Boat Festival is also celebrated across East Asia. But in Korea it is known as Dano. It caused an uproar in China when South Korea successfully sought UNESCO recognition for Dano celebrations in the coastal town of Gangneung in 2005. Chinese patriots think that the Koreans appropriated the Chinese holiday.

8. In September, 2009, UNESCO added the Dragon Boat Festival to the Intangible Cultural Heritage List, the first Chinese festival to receive the honor.

Driving Away The Five Poisonous Pests

The five poisonous pests are scorpions, centipedes, poisonous snakes, salamanders, and geckos. Around the festival, these poisonous pests start to become active and hurt people. They believe paste paintings of the pests on door can help drive them away. In some places, they would paint a needle in the head of the pests, showing they are dead and cannot hurt people anymore. Some people also embroider poisonous pests on clothes with the same purpose, forming the unique Dragon Boat Festival clothing style.

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Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival

The Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival is a 3-day series of dragon boat races and festivities at False Creek. It usually takes place in June.


The 2021 festival was originally cancelled in June. However, the event returns in September in a slightly modified format. The new dates for this years event are September 18th to 26th.

Hanging Portrait Of Zhong Kui

What is Dragon Boat Racing

Hanging portrait of Zhong Kui has been a tradition since Tang Dynasty . It is said Li Longji, the then emperor, had fallen in illness for a month. He dreamed of Zhong Kui catching a ghost who stole his jade flute, then he quickly recovered when he waked up. The emperor demanded a painter to paint a portrait of Zhong Kui. Later, hanging portraits of Zhong Kui became a Dragon Boat Festival tradition.

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Who Can Take Part

Dragon boating truly is the ultimate sport for all abilities and no previous experience is required as full training will be given on the day.

From a safety perspective we must ask that a minimum age of 12 years old is observed but apart from this if you can hold a paddle and sit in a boat you can take part.

Itâs so popular even Prince William and Kate Middleton have had a go. Kate is a former member of the Sisterhood boat crew, and she raced against Prince William during a trip to Canada!

What Do People Do

The Dragon Boat Festival is a celebration where many eat rice dumplings , drink realgar wine , and race dragon boats. Other activities include hanging icons of Zhong Kui , hanging mugwort and calamus, taking long walks, writing spells and wearing perfumed medicine bags.

All of these activities and games such as making an egg stand at noon were regarded by the ancients as an effective way of preventing disease, evil, while promoting good health and well-being. People sometimes wear talismans to fend off evil spirits or they may hang the picture of Zhong Kui, a guardian against evil spirits, on the door of their homes.

In the Republic of China, the festival was also celebrated as “Poets’ Day” in honor of Qu Yuan, who is known as China’s first poet. Chinese citizens traditionally throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water and it is also customary to eat tzungtzu and rice dumplings.

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What Is China’s Dragon Boat Festival

It’s a traditional festival full of traditions and superstitions, maybe originating from dragon worship an event on the sporting calendar and a day of remembrance/worship for Qu Yuan, Wu Zixu, and Cao E.

The festival has long been a traditional holiday in China.

On May 20th 2006 it was selected into the first batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage items.

In 2008 it was first celebrated as a public holiday in China.

On October 30th 2009 it was added to the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

How Chinese People Celebrate The Festival

Celebrating Dragon Boat Festival

Duanwu Festival is a folk festival celebrated for over 2,000 years, when Chinese people practice various customs thought to dispel disease, and invoke good health.

Some of the most traditional customs include dragon boat racing, eating sticky rice dumplings , hanging Chinese mugwort and calumus, drinking realgar wine, and wearing perfume pouches.

Now many of the customs are disappearing, or no longer observed. You are more likely to find them practiced in rural areas.

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