Dragon Boat Festival in China
Holiday. Dragon Boat Festival, Duanwu Festival.
When? It falls on the 5th day of the 5th month according to Chinese lunar calendar. In 2021 it lasts from June 12th - 14th.
Where? China and countries where there is a sizeable Chinese population.
The meaning. This great holiday has been held annually for more than 2,000 years and commemorates the patriotic poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC). The festival is remarkable for its educational influence.
There are a lot of legends circulating around the Duanwu Festival. One of them tells that Qu Yuan, as a minister in the State of Chu, supported the decision to fight against the powerful State of Qin. However he was slandered and exiled by the King. To show his love and devotion to his country, he wrote many enduring poems and became a famous poet in China's history. In 278 BC, his country was occupied and conquered by the State of Qin and he drowned himself in the river because he couldn’t watch that depressing event. For local people it was a tragedy. The fishermen tried to find the poet’s body in the river Miluo Jiang. Other people threw food like zongzi into the water to attract fish and stop them from destroying Qu Yuan's body. Later, many Chinese imitated these acts to show their respect for this great patriotic poet.
How it is celebrated. Every year the Dragon Boat Festival starts with the boat race. Teams of oarsmen are competing to see who reaches the finish first. It is believed that the winning team will bring good harvest and a happy life to the people of their village. Why the boat is called “dragon”? Because its fore and stern is in the shape of a traditional Chinese dragon.
Before the holiday people clean their houses. There is an old tradition to put mugwort leaves and calamus on the top of the doors to discourage disease.
The most popular customs on this day are also eating zongzi, drinking realgar wine, wearing a perfume pouch, tying five-coloured silk threads and others. Zongzi is a special food for this Festival: it’s a pyramid-shaped rice wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves. It has different shapes and various fillings.
On this day children decorate their clothes with different fragranced pouches, because according to Chinese folklore, wearing them protects from evil. Besides, parents tie five-coloured silk threads around the child’s neck because it is thought to contain magical and healing properties. While their parents are doing it, the kids are not permitted to speak! The children can throw the thread into the river only after the first summer rainfall.
These days the Dragonboat races are very popular and can be enjoyed in many regions in China, Japan, Vietnam, Britain, U.S.A. and even Austria. We are glad to report that every summer CIC organizes a Dragonboat Cup. You can find the details for 2018 here: https://www.cic-network.at/en/activity/activities-and-events/dragonboat-cup-2018/
Text: Vita Vitrenko, Photos: CIC, www.festival.si.edu