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Dragon Boat Festival

Celebrating Qu Yuan

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Dragon Boat Festival

Dragonboat Racing Festival Macau 2005

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Dragon Boat Festival is one of the major holidays in Chinese culture. This summer festival was originally a time to ward off bad spirits, but Dragon Boat Festival is now a celebration of the life of Qu Yuan, a Chinese Poet.

The highlight of Dragon Boat Festival is the Dragon Boat Race, where teams of rowers propel Dragon Boats to the beat of drums. This tradition is centuries-old, and has been taken up in countries around the world.

Dragon Boat Festival and Qu Yuan

Qu Yuan was a minister to the Zhou emperor during the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC). He was a wise man who was strongly opposed to the corruption of the imperial court.

Because of Qu Yuan’s success, he aroused jealousy in his fellow ministers. They plotted against him and convinced the emperor that Qu Yuan was a traitor. Qu Yuan was banished, and returned to his home town.

During his years of banishment, Qu Yuan collected legends and folk tales, and wrote poetry. He never lost his patriotic love for his emperor, and was greatly concerned about the future of the Zhou dynasty.

The Death of Qu Yuan

Eventually the Qin warriors overthrew the Zhou rulers and proceeded to plunder the country. On the 5th day of May, 278 BC, Qu Yuan learned about the sack of his capital city, and in a fit of despair, committed suicide by throwing himself into the Miluo river.

The townspeople, hearing of Qu Yuan’s fate, rushed to their boats to try to save him. Since he was much loved, they tried to prevent the fish from eating his body by throwing rice dumplings into the water. They beat drums to keep evil spirits away.

To this day, the 5th day of the 5th lunar month is celebrated by eating rice dumplings (zong zi) and racing dragon boats. It is also a day for wearing talismans to keep away evil spirits. Adults drink Xiong Huang wine, and children wear fragrant silk pouches to guard against evil.

Modern Dragon Boat Racing

In Chinese culture, Dragon boat festival has been an important holiday for centuries, but in recent years dragon boat racing has become an international sport.

The International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) organizes dragon boat races and sets standards and regulations for the sport.

Dragon Boat Festival Dates

The 5th day of the 5th lunar month falls on these dates of the Gregorian calendar:

  • 2011 – June 6
  • 2012 - June 23
  • 2013 - June 12
  • 2014 - Jume 2

Mandarin Chinese Phrases for Dragon Boat Festival

Here are a few Mandarin words and phrases relating to Dragon Boat Festival. Click on the link in the Pinyin column to hear the pronunciation.

English Pinyin Traditional Characters Simplified Characters
Dragon Boat Festival duān wǔ jié 端午節 端午节
Dragon Boat long zhōu 龍舟 龙舟
Rice Dumplings zòng zǐ 粽子 粽子
Qu Yuan qū yuán 屈原 屈原
Zhou Dynasty chǔ guó 楚國 楚国
Xiong Huang xióng huáng jiǔ 雄黃酒 雄黄酒
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