What is the Dragon Boat Festival? 端午節

By Todd Blackhurst

In Chinese culture, the Dragon Boat Festival is one of the more important festivals. It is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This year it will be celebrated on May 29 & 30. It’s origin was to remember the well loved poet Qu Yuan. There are many differing stories about his life, so I’ll share the most popular and well known one here.

During the decline of China in the end of the Zhou Dynasty, Qu Yuan served as minister to the Zhou Emperor. Qu Yuan was a wise and articulate man well loved by the common people. However, when the Emperor decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry.

Twenty-eight years later, The Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.

It is said that the local people, who deeply loved and admired him, raced out in their boats to save him or at least retrieve his body. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan’s body. This is thought to be the origin of ZongZi 粽子 and the dragon boat races.

During the Dragon Boat festival, there are various beliefs and traditions that traditional Chinese participate in, such as racing dragon boats, eating glutinous rice dumplings (粽子), hanging calamus and moxa on the front door, drinking special drinks, children wearing fragrant sachets, as well as standing an egg at 12:00 noon.

For most people, it is a time to gather with friends and family and celebrate some much needed time off.

In Taiwan, there are multiple locations to watch Dragon Boat Races. However, be warned, it is usually very hot, so take an umbrella and drink lots of water, but be sure to enjoy this great tradition with some friends.

For those of you living in Taichung, an easy place to visit is Lukang. Here is a map link to the location where the races are held.

 

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