Chinese Holidays 101: Dragon Boat Festival


On May 5th of the lunar calendar, it is the traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. It is one of the ancient traditional festivals of the Chinese nation. Dragon Boat Festival is also called the end of May, Duanyang and many other names, such as: Midday Festival, Double Five Festival, May Festival, Daughter’s Day, Poet Day, Dragon Day and so on. Not only the names are different, but also the customs of the people around the country are different as well.

The Dragon Boat Festival is a tradition of the Chinese people with a history of around 2,000 years. Due to its vast geographical area, many ethnic groups have produced many different customs. It mainly contains elements or customs such as : daughters going back to her parents’ home, hanging a portrait of Zhong Kui, welcoming ghost ships, hanging calamus and wormwood, dragon boat racing, giving children a realgar, drinking realgar wine, syrup wine, eating Five-Poisonous (it is flower cake with the surface painted with scorpions, crickets, spiders, crickets, snakes) cakes, salted eggs, medlars and seasonal fresh fruits, etc. Activities based on superstitious colors have disappeared gradually, while other activities have achieved new developments —— even breaking through time and geographical boundaries and becoming international sports events, such as dragon boat racing.timg

There are many arguments about the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival, such as: commemorating Qu Yuan, commemorating Wu Zixuan, commemorating Cao E, beginning of the three-generation Summer Solstice Festival, and Wu Yue’s national totem sacrifice. Each of the above has its own source. According to scholar Wen Yiduo’s “Dragon Boat Exam” and “The Dragon Boat Festival History Education” listed more than a hundred ancient records and expert archaeological research, the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival is a festival of totem sacrifices held by Wu and Yue peoples in the ancient South of China, earlier than Qu Yuan. However, for thousands of years, Qu Yuan’s patriotism and touching poetry have been deeply rooted in the hearts of the people. Therefore, people “cherish and mourn for the past and use the word to tell the truth.”  The origin  theory of commemorating Qu Yuan has been the most influential and mainstream one. In the field of folk culture, Chinese people associate the Dragon Boat Race during the Dragon Boat Festival and eating zongzi with the memorial of Qu Yuan. Today, the Dragon Boat Festival is still a very popular holiday among the Chinese people.

The Dragon Boat Festival in 2018 is June 18, and foreign friends who are studying in Shenzhen can pack zongzi yourself. Put the leaves in water until soft, put the glutinous rice in the leaves (you can mix red jujube or bacon in it. People in the south of China love salty zongzi while the northerners like it sweet), and wrap them in bundles. Put it in boiled water for half an hour and you can enjoy it. The taste of glutinous rice mixed with leaves is very delicious.

Written by Sun Qing

Edited by Nathan Faber