Dragon Boat Festival, also called the Duanwu Festival, is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month according to the traditional Chinese calendar, has a history of more than 2,000 years. The exact date varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar.
The story best known in modern China holds that the festival commemorates one of China's earliest poets and minister Qu Yuan (c.340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu (present-day Hunan and Hubei provinces) during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty.
He was upright, loyal and highly esteemed for his wise counsel that brought peace and prosperity to the state. He advocated enriching the country and strengthening its military forces so as to fight against the increasingly powerful state of Qin (Qin Dynasty was the first dynasty of Imperial China). However the king decided to ally with the state of Qin, Qu Yuan was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason. During his exiled day, he still cared much for his country and people and composed immortal poems including Li Sao (the lament), Tian Wen (heavenly questions) and Jiu Ge (nine songs), which had far-reaching influences. In 278 bc, he heard the news that the state of Qin troops had finally conquered the state of Chu's capital, so he finished his last piece Huai Sha (embracing sand) and plunged himself into the Miluo River, clasping his arms to a large stone on the fifth day of the fifth month. Nearby fishermen sailed their boats up and down the river to look for his body but were unable to even recover it.
The people of Chu who mourned the death of Qu threw rice into the river to feed his ghost every year on the fifth day of the fifth month. But one year, the spirit of Qu appeared and told the mourners that a huge reptile in the river had stolen the rice. The spirit then advised them to wrap the rice in silk and bind it with five different-colored threads before tossing it into the river.
Traditional Folk CustomDuring the Dragon Boat Festival, a glutinous rice pudding called Zong Zi is eaten to symbolize the rice offerings to Qu Yuan. Zongzi are pyramid-shaped dumplings made of glutinous rice, stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves and tied with soaked stalks or colorful silky cords.
Dragon boat racing. Dragon boat racing is a traditional pastime where crews of 22 seated in long, dragon-shaped boat race lengths of up to 2000m. The Races are an indispensable part of the Dragon Boat Festival and are held all over China.
Drinking realgar wine. There is an old saying: 'Drinking realgar wine drives diseases and evils away.' Realgar wine is a Chinese alcoholic drink consisting of fermented cereals and powdered realgar. In ancient times, people believed that realgar was an antidote for all poisons, and effective for killing insects and driving away evil spirits. So everyone would drink some realgar wine during the Dragon Boat Festival.
Wearing a sachet. During the Dragon Boat Festival, parents typically dress their children up with a sachet. They first sew little bags with colorful silk cloth, then fill the bags with perfumes or herbal medicines, and finally string them with silk thread. The sachet, which is said to be able to ward off evil, is usually hung around the child's neck or tied to the front of his or her garment as an ornament.