Dragon Boat Festival: History, Theme, and Significance

OV Digital Desk

Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival or Tuen Ng Festival, is a traditional Chinese holiday that has a rich history and cultural significance. The festival always occurs on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

In 2023, the festival will be celebrated on 23 June.

History of Dragon Boat Festival

The holiday originated over 2,000 years ago in China to commemorate a beloved poet named Qu Yuan. When the Chu State was defeated in 278 B.C., Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River as a final act of loyalty to the King of Chu. As legend has it, villagers boarded their boats and threw rice dumplings in the water to keep fish away from the body of the poet. The fifth lunar month is also considered a “poisonous” month in Chinese agriculture since summer is the high season for insects and pests. That’s why traditional Duanwu Jie customs involve hanging mugwort leaves and herbs on doors and windows to repel insects.

Significance of Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival has a history of over 2,000 years and is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. The festival holds great cultural and historical significance for the Chinese people and is recognized as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

The festival serves as a way to remember and honor Qu Yuan, promoting traditional Chinese culture and values such as loyalty, patriotism, and cultural heritage. It also represents a time of togetherness and unity, as families and communities come together to participate in the festivities.

Events at Dragon Boat Festival

Here are many events associated with Dragon Boat Festival.

  1. Dragon Boat Races: One of the main highlights of the festival is the dragon boat races. Teams of rowers paddle in long, narrow boats decorated like dragons, accompanied by the rhythmic beating of drums. The races are held in rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, attracting both participants and spectators.
  2. Zongzi: Zongzi, pyramid-shaped glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves, are a traditional food associated with the festival. These dumplings are typically filled with a variety of ingredients such as sticky rice, meats, beans, and nuts. Zongzi are often eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival as a symbol of respect for Qu Yuan and to ward off evil spirits.
  3. Hanging Up Pouches of Herbs: It is a common tradition to hang up pouches filled with herbs, known as “xiong bao” or “amulet pouches.” These pouches are believed to have protective properties and are hung on doors or worn as accessories to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.
  4. Wearing Colorful Silk Threads: Another tradition during the festival is wearing colorful silk threads, known as “five-color silk threads.” These threads are believed to possess protective and healing properties, and people wear them to ward off evil and disease.