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Nurturing a heritage of 5,000 years, China is one of the four ancient civilization nations which has witnessed the emergence of many festivals including the Chinese new year and the Duanwu festival which is commonly known as the Dragon boat festival.

This is one of most important traditional festivals according to the Chinese calendar which is celebrated with much vigour by the locals. The festival revolves around many traditional activities and rituals like the famous dragon boat race and hanging Calamus outside the house. This is one of the oldest chinese festivals which is originated from China and celebrated at the neighbouring countries like Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

Dragon Boat Festival History

Qu Yuan

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There are many legends associated with the origins of the Dragon boat festival, but the legend of the Qu Yuan is The locals believe that the Dragon boat festival originated from the ancient China in the 278 BCE based on the suicide of Qu Yuan, the poet and statesman of the Chu kingdom. After the Chu state fell into the hands of the State of Qin, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Milou River on the 5th day of the 5th Chinese Lunar month. The local people tried to save or recover the body of Qu Yuan, but every effort went into vain.

To commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, the local people beat drums and paddle out in the boats on the river at the 5th day of the 5th Chinese Lunar month, to keep the fishes and evil spirit away from his body.

Quick Facts About Dragon Boat Festival

Chinese: 端午节[duān wǔ jié] also called Duanwu Festival
Date: 5th Day Of The 5th Lunar Month
History: more than 2,000 years
Traditions: Eating Zongzi (steamed rice pudding) and traditional dragon boat race
Dragon boat festival 2021: Thursday, June 25th

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Cultural Activities And Traditions

There are many dragon boat festival traditions practiced by the people of China and the neighbouring Asian countries to commemorate the birth and death of Qu Yuan.

1. Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat Racing

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The main highlight of the festival is the fascinating sight of the gigantic dragon boats ornately carved with fierce looking ‘dragon’ heads and tails. It is the most vibrant tradition of the festival as it consists of heavy drumming and people rowing boats intensely to reach the finish line.

According to the locals, this boat race originated from the time when people paddled on the boats to seek for the body of Qu Yuan, when he drowned himself in the water.

Where to see the Dragon Boat Racing in China?

  • Yueyang International Dragon Boat Race: Milou River Dragon Boat Race Center, Yueyang, Hunan
  • Zigui Dragon Boat Racing: Xu Jia Chong Bay, Zigui County, Yichang, Hubei
  • Miao People’s International Canoe Festival: Qingshui River, Guizhou
  • Hangzhou Xixi Dragon Boat Race: Xixi Wetland Park

2. Eating Sticky Rice Puddings


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The Zongzi or the sticky rice pudding is the one of the main dishes which is made during the dragon boat festival. Made of sticky or glutinous rice dumpling which is wrapped in a bamboo leaves which forms a pyramid-like shape and tied with plant stems. Apart from the sticky rice filling, there are other fillings like the egg yolk, lotus seeds, ham, red bean paste, rose, melon, date, chestnut and pork.

3. Drinking Realgar Wine

Realgar Wine

The locals believe that drinking Realgar wine can drive diseases and evils away. The Realgar wine is a Chinese alcoholic drink which is made of fermented cereals and powdered realgar. During the ancient times the Chinese people believed that the realgar wine was the antidote of every poison and effective in killing insects.

4. Wearing Perfume Pouches

Perfume Pouches

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In the early times the land used to get affected by plagues and diseases during the time of the dragon boat festival. Thus before the festival arrived, parents prepared the perfume pouches for their children and hung them around their necks. These little bags were sewn of colorful silk cloth and filled with perfumes and herbal medicines which were string with silk threads.

It was believed that during the festival these bags not only protect them from the diseases and plague but also keep the evil spirits away.

5. Hanging Chinese Mugwort And Calamus

Hanging Mugwort

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Another ancient tradition that is still followed by the Chinese was to hang Mugwort and Calamus plants at the entrance of the house during the Dragon Boat Festival. Mugwort leaves holds medicinal values and it is believed that its fragrance which deters flies and mosquitos. Whereas it is also said that these leaves brings good luck and prosperity to the house.

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Does this all excite you? If yes, then become a part of these vibrant traditions of this ancient Chinese festival by booking your China holiday package with TravelTriangle and experience the zeal and joy of this magnificent festival of sacrifice!

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Category: China, Festival

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