Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival)
The Duanwu Festival, also known as the Dragon Boat Festival or Tuen Ng, is a holiday celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. Since it is based on a lunar calendar, the date of its celebration varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar but is usually within the first few weeks of June. This holiday is best known for the big dragon boats that are raced on this day, but the true purpose of it is to commemorate the life of the Chinese scholar Chu Yuan, more commonly known as Qu Yuan.
Qu Yuan was born around 340 B.C. He was a poet and is best known for writing the poem “Li Sao” and for his unwavering patriotism to China. In 278 B.C., he committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.
After his suicide, local residents raced out on the river to try and retrieve his body. This is believed to be the origin of the dragon boat races held on this day. After the residents failed to find his body, they dropped balls made out of rice so the fish would eat these instead of Qu Yuan’s body. This is believed to be the origin of Zongzi, a popular food eaten on this holiday.
From that moment on, the day became an important cultural holiday in China. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that it was officially recognized as a traditional statutory holiday in the country.
Customs, Traditions, and Celebrations
The main staple of the Duanwu Festival is the dragon boat races. It is also common for people to eat Zongzi – rice dumplings that are stuffed with glutinous rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves. It is also common to drink a wine called Xionghuangjiu.
Other customs performed on this day include wearing medicine bags and hanging mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) to ward off evil and disease. It is also believed that if you can balance an egg on its end at high noon on this day, then you will have luck throughout the year.