Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Duanwu Festival (端午节), which falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month every year. With a long history of over 2000 years, dating back to the Warring States Period (B.C 403 — B.C 221), Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most three important lunar festivals in China, along with Spring Festival and Mid-autumn Festival.
For celebrating this festival, there is a three-day holiday in China since 2008. It is also the first traditional Chinese festival listed on the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritages. In 2014, Chinese Dragon Boat Festival falls on June 2, which is Monday.
Dragon Boat Festival can be traced back to 2000 years ago and legends about the festival are many. The most famous one is about commemorating Qu Yuan, a notable official and patriot poet during the Spring and Autumn Periods.
Qu Yuan was an important official during the Spring and Autumn Periods in the Chu State, which was located in today’s Hubei Province in Central China. During his life he strongly advocated recommending talents from all social levels, enriching the country and building up the military forces. However, his advocates were strongly rejected by members of aristocracy as it would destroy their interests. Then Qu Yuan was forced to resign and was banished to the remote area of the country, which was the time when he wrote a lot of famous poems to express his loving for the Chu State.
In B.C 278, the capital of Chu State was captured by the Qin Army. Qu Yuan was so sorrow that he committed suicide into Miluo River after hearing the news on the fifth of the fifth lunar month. Locals were very sad about the death of their respectable poet and state official. Every year on this day folklores would commemorate him spontaneously.
Top Customs about Chinese Dragon Boat Festival
Dragon Boat Racing
Dragon Boat Racing is the major custom to celebrate Dragon Boat Festival. When Qu Yuan drowned himself into the river, many fishermen rode their boats on the river, trying to find his body. They tried so hard that most even rode boats to Dongting Lake. Though they failed to make it, every year later locals would ride dragon boats for commemorating Qu Yuan, hoping to disperse creatures under the river in this way.
In the late Qing Dynasty (1736), Taiwan started to hold dragon boat racing match and later the activity become popular in Hong Kong, too. At the same time, this interesting race was also spread to Chinese neighboring countries like Japan and Vietnam.
In 1991, the 1st International Dragon Boat Festival was held in Yueyang City, Hunan Province, which is the second hometown of Qu Yuan. The celebration activities includes worshiping the dragon head and dragon boat racing match. After that, the Hunan Province holds the International Dragon Boat Festival regularly.
After Qu Yuan committed suicide in Miluo River, fishermen tried hard to find his body but failed. Some locals threw rice rolls, eggs and meat into the river to feed creatures under the river, hoping they wouldn’t eat the body of Qu Yuan. Years later people used leaves to roll the rice rolls and tightened them with colorful threads, which is known as Zongzi (棕子).
Now eating Zongzi has become an indispensable part of Dragon Boat Festival celebration. In southern China almost every household will eat zongzi when the festival comes. People can also buy zongzi in the stores or from street vendors.
Hanging Mugwort Leaves and Calamus
When Dragon Boat Festival comes, most households will sweep the houses and the yards. Then they will hang mugwort leaves and calamus. Usually the plants are hung on the doorframes and the main hall. In some areas people will use mugwort leaves and calamus to make flowers circles or tiger-shape, which are believed to be able to drive out the disease miasma.
During Dragon Boat Festival, usually kids would wear sachets (佩香囊) in the countryside areas. It is believed that by doing so it helps driving out the evil spirit and avoiding illness. At the same time, people think that kids with sachets look more adorable.
Inside the sachets are cinnabar, realgar and aromatic odor. The shapes of sachets vary and they are strung together. In some cities of southern China, some young people will also use sachets to express their affections for each other.
Top Cities to Celebrate Chinese Dragon Boat Festival
Every year when Dragon Boat Festival comes, in many Chinese cities there will be dragon boat racing. Top places to celebrate Chinese Dragon Boat Festival are Hangzhou, Hongkong, Foshan and Yueyang. Other places in China also celebrate the festival like Beijing. If you are in Beijing, Yangqing Xia Dugong Park and Beihai Park are good options.
Xixi International Dragon Boat Festival held in Hangzhou Xixi Wetland Park (杭州西溪湿地公园) on the fifth day of the fitfth lunar month is the most famous place to celebrate Dragon Boat Festival in Hangzhou City. During the festival, visitors can take part in most activities, including watching dragon boat racing match, tasting traditional festival food, enjoying theater performances, dragon and lion dances and martial arts exhibitions etc.
- Opening Hours:07:00—17:30 from April 1 to October 31 and 08:30—17:00 for the rest time.
- Getting there:Take bus 310 to Zhoujiacun Station or take Y13/sightseeing bus 1 to Xixi Wetland Park.
If you live in Hong Kong (香港) or just stop over there for several days in June, you may go to Victory Harbor (维多利亚港) during June 6 to June 8, 2014 to enjoy Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival. It is a significant international Dragon Boat Festival. The festival was started 38 years, which was also the time that introduced Dragon Boat Festival to the world. Every year the event attracts over 200 teams both from Hong Kong and other countries/regions. The entrance fee is free.
- Getting there:Take MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station (Exit G) and walk east for about 15 minutes. Or take MTR to East Tsim Sha Tsui Station (Exit P1).
Every year Foshan City (佛山) of the Guangdong Province will hold different kinds of activities to celebrate Dragon Boat Festival in different districts. Of these districts, Shunde holds the grandest one.
In 2014, besides traditional dragon dancing and the large competition of dragon boat racing on Lake Guipan, it will add more interactive activities to help new comers in Shunde adapting to local culture and life as soon as possible. Thus many staff in enterprises will take part in the activity. It will be a great place to enjoy Dragon Boat Racing Match and experience Dragon Boat Festival culture.
Miluo River in Yueyang (岳阳) is a famous river since Qu Yuan committed suicide into it 2000 years ago. Thus it is also the birthplace of Dragon Boat Racing Match and eating zongzi during the festival, which serves as a good spot to enjoy Dragon Boat Festival during the period.
Every year when the day comes, many locals and visitors will flood to the banks of Miluo to watch Dragon Boat Racing match. The celebration there includes worshiping the head of dragon boats, hanging mugwort leaves and calamus and making zongzi.
Yueyang is about 157 km away from Changsha City, the capital of the Hunan Province, with about 2 hours driving time.
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