Dragon Boat Festival 端午节
The Dragon Boat Festival is known as 端午节 (duān wǔ jié) in Chinese. The festival is also known as the Double Fifth Festival as it is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. As part of the celebration, it is a tradition for families to make rice dumplings shaped like a pyramid. These rice dumplings known as 粽子(zòngzi) in Chinese are made with glutinous rice, with or without a filling, and wrapped in bamboo leaves before they are boiled.
The origin of this festival goes back more than 2,000 years, during the warring states period of ancient China. According to the legend, Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet and respectable minister in the court of Emperor Chu, was accused of treason by other corrupt and jealous government officials and was forced into exile. Even in exile, he continued to fight for his Emperor and country. However, when he heard that the Chu dynasty had been taken over by the Qin dynasty, he was so despaired that he threw himself into the Miluo River on 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
On hearing the sad news, the people of Chu were so moved by Qu Yuan’s love and loyalty for the country that they rushed out to the river in their boats to look for the poet’s body. When they could not find his body, they splashed wildly on the surface of the waters to scare the fishes and prevent them from devouring the poet’s body. They threw cooked rice wrapped in bamboo leaves to distract the fishes and as an offering to Qu Yuan’s spirit.
Today, 2,000 years on, people still continue to make the rice dumplings not to be thrown into rivers but to be enjoyed with friends and family to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan. In addition to this, the festival is celebrated with dragon boat races on rivers as if to re-enact that faithful day when the people searched fervently for Qu Yuan’s body.
If you are up for the challenge, you can try to make your very own 粽子 (zòngzi). Most ingredients are available to buy in any Chinese supermarkets. Click here to learn how to make it.
You can also learn more about the Story of Qu Yuan in here.