“Dragon Boat Festival” redirects here. For dragon boating as a sport, see dragon boat.
The Dragon Boat or Duanwu Festival is a traditional and statutory holiday originating in China.
The festival now occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditionalChinese calendar, the source of its alternate name, the Double Fifth Festival. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, so the date varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. In 2012, it fell on June 23; in 2013, on June 12; and in 2014, it will occur on June 2. The focus of most celebrations involves eating zongzi (sticky rice treats wrapped in bamboo leaves), drinking realgar wine (雄黃酒, xiónghuángjiǔ), and racing dragon boats.
Main article: Qu Yuan
The story best known in modern China holds that the festival commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu during theWarring States period of the Zhou Dynasty. A cadet member of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry. Twenty-eight years later, Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.
It is said that the local people, who admired him, raced out in their boats to save him or at least retrieve his body. This is said to have been the origin of dragon boat races. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan’s body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi.