The Cultural importance of China’s ‘Dragon Boat Festival’

Commemorating a poet

Dragon Boat Festival in China is one of the most ancient and auspicious occasions of the Chinese people, for more than two thousand years. Declared a public holiday in China on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the ‘Dragon Boat Festival’ commemorates one of the most erudite scholars of ancient China— her first poet Qu Yuan. The festival usually takes place in June and hence, planning for a summer trip to China would be much more special, if you stay in the Chinese land during the festival!

Historic Background

As mentioned before, the ‘Dragon Boat Festival’ is the occasion of commemorating the teachings and the demise of the great Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who committed suicide in 278 BC, because of a ghoulish conspiracy, carried out against him by a group of the then Chinese bureaucrats and aristocrats. Qu, an extremely loyal minister of the then Chinese monarchy, because of his high intellect, pure wisdom and tremendous honest nature became a successful and well-accepted public figure that made some of the aristocrats and bureaucrats jealous of him. They conspired and brought some false allegations against him that he couldn’t prove untrue and thus was exiled by the king. Despite writing several radical poems during his exile period, the increasing sorrow and pain made Qu frustrated, resulting in his suicide by drowning himself in the water of Milo by attaching a heavy stone to his body, when he was 61. His followers and friends, his people opted for all the ways possible to rescue him but failed. Every year, during the dragon boat festival, that very struggle to rescue Qu is celebrated.

The Cultural Impact of the Festival

However, the festival has a historic essence, the culture of every traditional festival always has a ‘greater will’. The ‘Dragon Boat Fest’ is no exception, as it is too celebrated with the prayer of good health and prosperity of people. During the fest, people have several traditional Chinese dishes and beverages, such as Zongzi or rice dumplings and the Xiong Huang Jiu or realgar wine. The central attraction of the festival is its boat race, where teak-wood-made boats with an opened-mouth dragon in front and tail in the back, ranging from 40 to 100 feet in length, participate in a race of grabbing a flag.

The Dragon Boat Festival, thus not only upholds the essence of the land’s ancient history but also bears a message of fraternity, love and togetherness all over the Republic of China.

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