Wishing all a festive Duan Wu Jie! The Dragon Boat Festival falls on June 18 2018.
Duan Wu Jie, meaning the “Upright Sun” or Duan Yang, “Double Fifth”, is a Chinese festivity with origins in Southern China. It falls on the fifth day of the fifth month around the Summer Solstice, involving boat races and rice dumplings. It is also known as the Dragon Boat Festival.
Through the centuries, Duan Wu Jie has evolved from the practice of revering the River Dragon to a festival to commemorate Qu Yuan, a third century poet and political figure of the State of Chu.
Qu Yuan was a Chinese patriotic poet from southern Chu during the Warring States Period. He was born into a noble family and became councillor to his king, Lord Chu. However, he was slandered by his enemies and sent into exile. The ministry was left in the hands of corrupt statesmen and Qu Yuan watched helplessly as his motherland declined. Eventually Lord Chu was captured, and the capital, Ying, was taken by General Bai Qi of the state of Qin.
Upon receiving this news, Qu Yuan fell into despair and waded into the Miluo river on the fifth day of the fifth moon in 279 B.C., giving his life to his country as a form of protest against corruption.
Here the story varies. Popular legend has it that villagers raced their boats to the middle of the river in a desperate attempt to save their beloved minister, but were unsuccessful. Having failed, they sought to appease his spirit by throwing out rice stuffed in bamboo stems into the river to prevent the fish from eating his body.
Late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before some villagers and told them that the rice offerings had been snatched by a river dragon. He told them that the rice needed to be bundled in chinaberry leaves and different coloured silk threads to ward the dragon off. These rice packages, or zongzi, thus became entwined with the festivities. The act of racing to search for his body in boats gradually became the cultural tradition of dragon boat races.