Duanwu Festival or Dragon Boat Festival
Traditional Chinese Festivals
held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese Calendar.
It is also known as the Double Fifth. It has since been celebrated, in various
ways, in other parts of East Asia as well. In the West, it's commonly known as
Dragon Boat Festival.
The exact origins of Duan Wu are unclear, but one traditional view holds that the festival memorializes the Chinese poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC-278 BC) of the Warring States Period. He committed suicide by drowning himself in a river because he was disgusted by the corruption of the Chu government. The local people, knowing him to be a good man, decided to throw food into the river to feed the fish so they would not eat Qu Yuan's body. They also sat on long, narrow paddle boats called dragon boats, and tried to scare the fish away by the thundering sound of drums aboard the boat and the fierce looking carved dragon head on the boat's prow.Other thoughts are that after Qu Yaun committed suicide, that because the people loved him so much, they raced out to recover his body, and the races signify the boats skimming across the water to find him. However, researches have also revealed that the festival is also a celebration that is characteristic of ancient Chinese agrarian society: the celebration of the harvest of winter wheat, because similar celebrations had long existed in many other parts of China where Qu Yuan was not known. As interactions between Chinese residing in different regions increased, these similar festivals were eventually merged.
In the early years of the Chinese Republic, Duan Wu was also celebrated as "Poets' Day," due to Qu Yuan's status as China's first poet of personal renown.
Today, people eat bamboo-wrapped steamed rice dumplings called zongzi (the food originally intended!--originally intended or originally used to feed the fish) and race dragon boats in memory of Qu Yuan's death.
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