Whether it’s your first time visiting China or you’ve travelled to this amazing country before, checking out the many festivals and national events that each region hosts is a great part of the experience. The Dragon Boat Festival is one such event that brings locals and visitors from all areas together to celebrate in style. Also known as the Duanwu Festival, this traditional and important Chinese celebration has a 2,000-year-old history.
Taking place on the fifth day of the fifth Chinese lunar month (which runs from June 14th to July 12th), the Dragon Boat Festival offers a fascinating insight into Chinese culture. Here are just a few interesting facts about China’s Dragon Boat Festival to get you geared up for next year’s event.
The festival celebrates the life of Qu Yuan
It’s not just locals’ love for dragon boat racing that’s indulged at this annual festival. The Dragon Boat Festival was originally introduced to honour Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet who was prominent during the country’s Warring States Period. During this era, China went from being 14 kingdoms to 7 kingdoms, and finally to the one we know today. It was Qu Yuan who sacrificed himself for his country during this chaotic time, with the date of the festival coinciding with his death.
Zongzi is this festival’s food of choice
Those visiting the Dragon Boat Festival certainly won’t be disappointed by its food and drink offering, but there’s one foodstuff that stands out above the rest. Zongzi is a sticky rice dumpling and one of the most important foods at the Dragon Boat Festival. These dumplings actually form part of its history. Legend has it, that onlookers threw zongzi into the Miluo River to stop fish from nibbling on the body of Qu Yuan.
Now available in a number of different shapes and flavours, zongzi is a must-try for all those attending the Dragon Boat Festival. Here Munchies explains the role that zongzi plays at today’s dragon boat gatherings:
“Today, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated all throughout Asia with boat races and piles of zongzis. Different countries have different types of rice dumplings. In Taiwan, the regional differences are quite distinct. As a wrapper, the north uses Makino bamboo leaves and the south uses sweet bamboo. Hakka people on the island use neither and opt for the fragrant leaves of a plant called alpinia zerumbet, or shell ginger.”
The festival has yet more meanings
As well as paying homage to poet Qu Yuan and featuring the time-honoured custom of dragon boat racing, the festival is known as a Health Day for the Chinese people. People use the Dragon Boat Festival, and the national holiday that accompanies it, to make time to clean their homes and take a herbal bath to prevent and ease skin ailments.
The Dragon Boat Festival was also the root of quite a few omens in the past. The weather experienced on festival day, for instance, was thought to predict the success of the year’s harvest. Rain meant that there would be a poor harvest whilst a sunny festival day would indicate a thriving year ahead. It was also tradition that married daughters would return to their parents’ homes to celebrate the festival in order to avoid evil spirits!
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