Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the Duanwu Festival and Double Fifth is on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. People eat rice dumplings known as zongzi, drink wine known as xionghuangjiu and race dragon boats during this day.

This festival is about a man known as Qu Yuan, a famous scholar and poet who was a loyal minister serving the King of Chu during the Warring States Period in the third century BC. In 278BC, Qu Yuan went to the Miluo River and drowned himself. People tried to save the man but were unsuccessful, and every year the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated for this attempt.
The local people started a tradition of throwing sacrificial rice into the Miluo River for Qu Yuan. A local fisherman dreamt that Qu Yuan did not get any of this rice, only the fish, and for this reason people made zongzi to sink into the river and wrapt bamboo leaves around the meal.

It is also said that the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival started because of a man called Wu Zixu who was a loved political advisor that committed suicide and had his body thrown into a river on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

Along with racing dragon boats during the day people will create charms, amulets and lovely incense bags, filling these bags with herbs and/or spices to ward of disease. People will also attempt to stand an egg on its end at noon of the Dragon Boat Festival as it is said if this is successfully done it will mean good luck for the following year.

A story goes that during the Tan Dynasty of China a rebel known as Huang was scouting a village he was going to attack during the fifth lunar month. Huang saw a woman carrying a boy in her arm and holding another boys hand while running. Huang inquired to this woman why she was running and her reply was, “We heard Huang is coming, we need to run for our lives.” Huang further inquired and asked why one boy was in the woman’s arm while the other boy was simply holding her hand, the woman replied, “The one in the arm is the only son of my husband’s elder brother. The other my son. In case I cannot run quickly enough, I will drop my son and save my husband’s brother’s son.” Huang was touched by this and told to put two plants, the Acorus and Artemisia, onto the woman’s front door, saying that the family will be safe if done so.

The woman returning to her village told some people to put the two plants up on their doors. On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the forces of Huang entered the village to be attacked and all families with Acorus and Artemisia on their door was safe. From then on the custom to leave these two plants on doors grew.

Interestingly, the 5th Lunar month is marked as “Poison” month due to it being a time of active disease spreading by insects, where it is easy to catch infectious disease. The Acorus and Artemisia hung also serves as repellents to insects.

The fifth lunar month is seen as a bad month and the fifth day of this very month an inauspicious day (due to many famous people dying on this day of the lunar year). A male baby will bring back luck to the father while a female baby back luck to the mother if born on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and due to this very reason parents have killed their babies born on this day. Ouch.


  1. So when is the 5th lunar month? Is it not May? What is a lunar month?

  2. A lunar month is based on the movement of the moon with one lunar month being about 28-29 days long. The start of a lunar month is of a new moon. The fifth lunar month tends to start in June at this time.