Chinese Dragon Boat Festival – A Commemoration of National Hero Qu Yuan

A significant festival celebrated in China with the longest history, the Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month to commemorate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan.

Qu Yuan, a Chinese national hero who drowned himself into the Mi Luo River in 277 BC to react against the corrupt and incompetent rulers. Qu Yuan was a minister of the state Chu, which aligned with another state with increasing power named Qin. Qu Yuan was dubbed a trader and was expelled to the frontier region, and it was during that period he wrote what was considered as China’s first great poetry. When Chu was gradually conquered by Qin, Qu Yuan waded into a river out of distress and patriotism for Qin. The legend goes that people beat drums to keep fishes away and throw dumplings to the sea to prevent the fishes from eating Qu Yuan’s body, which accounts for the reason why Chinese eat Zongzi and hold dragon boat racing competitions as a day of mourning Qu Yuan’s death.

Zongzi, a glutinous rice dumpling stuffed with various fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves, is a traditional Chinese food eaten on that day as a memorial to the great poet. Glutinous rice forms the main ingredient of Zongzi, then comes to bamboo leaves that distinguish Zongzi from other kinds of dumplings. The filling often consists of pork, mung bean, sweetened red bean paste, etc. In the ancient time, Zong zi is usually eaten only on Dragon Boat Festival, but now the situation is a little different. It is attainable at any time of the year, and the taste of Zongzi differs from place to place as locals have developed their own varieties of Zongzi. If you come to China, don’t miss the national practice of eating Zongzi. You will surely be impressed by the delicacy of it.

Another highlighted part of Dragon Boat Festival is the fierce dragon boat racing in a vibrant spectacle. Different teams race the exquisitely ornamented dragon boasts to the beat of drums. The boasts, usually measured at a length of over 10 meters with carved and painted dragon heads and tails as well as a crew of about 20-22 paddlers.

During the dragon boat competition, participants sit two abreast with a drummer at the front and a steersman at the back. The paddlers compete to see which team reaches the finishing line first, urging by the roaring of the crowds and the beating drums.

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