Best Dragon Boat Festival Explanation
Best Dragon Boat Festival Explanation

Best Dragon Boat Festival Explanation: let’s talk about the history and traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival.

The Dragon Boat Festival is officially known as the Duanwu Festival in Chinese.

Duanwu Festival falls on the 5th day of the 5th month on the traditional Chinese calendar.

therefore it’s also known as the Double Fifth Festival.

It originally came from China, and just like the Chinese New Year and the Moon Festival, it is now one of the most celebrated festivals across Asian countries.

The origin of the Dragon Boat Festival is often associated with the death of Qu Yuan and Wu Zixu.

Qu Yuan
Qu Yuan

However the festival itself has long existed before these historical figures.

Chinese people have always regarded themselves as the descendants of the Dragon, not the fire-breathing dragons from western mythology, but Chinese dragons.

According to ancient texts and discoveries, the actual origin of the festival is most likely a ceremony for worshipping the Dragon.

Rice treats were originally offerings for the dragon and racing dragon boats was part of the ritual as well.

Best Dragon Boat Festival Explanation

Other than the two traditions we mentioned earlier, there exist many other customs throughout the dynasties.

I roughly grouped them into 3 main categories.

The first one is food. The most common one being the rice treats we talked about earlier.

In the past people would fill millet into bamboo tubes or wrap them in leaves.

That later became the Zongzi or rice dumplings we know today.

Now it is made with glutinous rice with sweet or savory fillings.

During the Han dynasty, there was also a tradition of eating owl soups.

Yes the adorable and magical owls from Harry Potter were considered an unlucky bird in ancient China.

People believed eating owl soups could repel evil spirits.

During the Tang dynasty, women and children would play a game involving shooting arrows at rice treats, such as glutinous balls and millet dumplings.

Whoever could land their arrows on one could eat it.

But since these things are small and slippery, it was not as easy as it seems.

The second category is repelling evil and illnesses.

Ancient Chinese people believed the 5th month of the Chinese calendar is an unlucky month, so there are many traditions related to expelling evil spirits.

For example, drinking realgar wine or xionghuang wine because it was a common antidote against poison in ancient times.

Hanging medicinal herbs on the door such as mugwort and calamus leaves.


Taking a bath with medical herbs and gathering herbs were also popular activities.

People would also put them into pouches and carry them around.

And no matter who you were or how old you were, everyone would put braid silk threads on their arms on this day.

It’s made of five colored threads of red, yellow, black, white, and blue or green.

each representing an element of the Five Elements – metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.

People believed that wearing this charm would help keep bad spirits and disease away.

The last activity is racing dragon boats, hence the name Dragon Boat festival.

Earlier we mentioned how this festival is often tied with Qu Yuan and Wu Zixu.

Qu Yuan was a poet and minister during the Warring States period. Wu Zixu was a general and politician from the Spring and Autumn period.

They were both patriots who wanted to give everything to serve their country but ended up dead in agony.

Qu Yuan commited suicide in the river, while Wu Zixu was killed and had his body thrown into the river.

So it was believed that people raced in boats trying to retrieve their bodies.

and scattered rice treats into the water to feed the fish, to prevent them from eating their bodies.

Since the boat racing tradition existed before their deaths, these stories were apparently incorporated into the festival later on.

Nevertheless, it is now the most exciting part of the festival where thousands of people cheer on the land while the dragon boats row in rhythm with loud drum beats.

There are many other traditions in different regions, such as shooting willow leaves on horseback, making an egg stand, training birds to talk, and more.

Other Asian countries, such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, each developed their own traditions throughout history.

Have you had zongzi or rice dumpling before? What’s your favorite tradition of this holiday? Let me know in the comments below.

I’ll be making more videos about traditional Chinese culture and values, as well as Chinese fashion and history, so don’t forget to comment if you want to learn more.

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