Dragon Boat Festival of China


May of 2010 has passed and that of Chinese lunar calendar is just about to come. For most Chinese, what they expect for most in June may be the grand traditional festival - Dragon Boat Festival, which is on 16th June this year.

Chinese traditional festivals, Dragon Boat Festival positions in the list of the most important traditional festivals in China as well as Spring Festival (Chinese Lunar New Year), Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Festival) and Mid-autumn Day (Mooncake Festival). According to Chinese lunar calendar, Dragon Boat Festival always falls on the fifth day of the fifth month (May) every year. Therefore, it is also called Double Fifth Festival.

For more than 2000 years, Chinese people have been celebrating this festival by holding various activities, e.g. wrapping Zongzi (rice dumpling wrapped in reed leaves), Dragon Boat race, drinking realgar wine, girding calamus, folium artemisiae argyi, wormwood and some other leaves which are considered to be good for health on the basis of traditional Chinese medical theory.

For many foreigners, they may hear of this festival no more than Zongzi and Dragon Boat Race. As a matter of fact, people celebrate it in memory of Qu Yuan, who was a loyal minister of Chu Kingdom during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 B.C. – 476 B.C.) in China. In the light of the great historic recording work "Shi Ji" written by the famous historian and litterateur Sima Qian (135 B.C. – 86 B.C.), Minister Qu Yuan advised the King to appoint those who were of talent and moral quality to administer the country so that the country could get strong enough to withstand the super power Qin Empire. However, his proposal was strongly opposed by the noble of Chu Kingdom and he was dismissed and exiled. In the duration of the exile, he produced some great patriotic poems such as "Li Sao" and "A Request to God". In 278 B.C., the defense line of Chu Kingdom was broken through by Qin Empire. Knowing that his motherland was invaded, Qu Yuan felt torn with grief. He wrote his last poem "Huai Sha" on the fifth day (Chinese lunar calendar) of May and then drowned himself in the Miluo River to show his loyalty to his country. After his death, the common people of Chu Kingdom were very sad and tried to salvage him, but they failed finally. Without finding Qu Yuan's body, people thought out all kinds of ideas to keep his body being destroyed in the water – throwing rice balls and eggs into the river to feeding fishes and shellfishes so that they were full enough and wound not bite the body, and pouring realgar wine in to the river to put dragons in the water in a coma. Afterwards, to avoid dragons eating the rice balls, people wrapped the rice balls with leaves and coloured ribbons. Gradually, it developed into Zongzi. Hereafter, to commemorate Qu Yuan, people hold Dragon Boat Race, wrapping Zongzi, girding medical leaves every year and it consequently became a national custom.  

Nowadays, Dragon Boat Race is not only an activity at Dragon Boat Festival but also listed as one of the China national sporting events, which has become one of the highlight sports of China

--- By Cindy (Visit Our China)