Dragon Boat Festival History

the dragon boat festival Dragon boats

The Dragon Boat Festival, with a long history of more than 2,000 years, is believed to have originated during the Warring States period. A number of legends attempt to explain its origins. The best-known story is that of the legend of Qu Yuan, poet and statesman of the Chu kingdom during the Warring States period.

A well-known traditional story has it that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan from the ancient state of Chu (340 BC–278 BC), during the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty. A descendant of the Chu royal family, Qu Yuan served in high offices. When the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu Yuan failed to persuade him not to do so and was banished for opposing the alliance. Later, he was accused of treason and exiled. Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin State conquered the capital of Chu. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

It is said that the local people were very sad when hearing the news of Qu Yuan's death, and all came to the river bank to give their respect to the patriot. Fishermen refloated his body, and one of them threw lumps of rice into the river to feed the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan's body – this is purportedly the origin of zongzi. And, the locals paddled out on boats to scare the fish away and retrieve his body – purportedly the origin of dragon boat racing. Moreover, an old Chinese doctor poured Realgar wine into the river to poison the monsters and to protect Qu Yuan – purportedly the origin of drinking Realgar wine.

Since then, on every fifth day of the fifth lunar month people race dragon boats, eat zongzi, and drink Realgar wine in commemoration of the great patriot Qu Yuan.

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Hi, I'm Ruru Zhou
I updated this article on April 11, 2014
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