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Dragon Boat Festival, a Short History.

Rice Dumplings, Yellow Wine and Dragon Boat Racing.

The holiday commemorates the life and death of Qu Yuan the famous poet, scholar and minister to the emperor during the Zhou Dynasty in the 3rd century BCE.

After being falsely accused of conspiracy and treason by antagonized court officials Qu Yuan was exiled. During his exile Qu Yuan composed many poems expressing his anger and sorrow to his sovereign and people.

In 278 BCE at the age of 61 Qu Yuan drowned himself by attaching a heavy stone to his chest and jumping into the Miluo River.

Rescue attempts were made and desperate searches in boats, Qu Yuan could not be saved, and his body was never found. With sorrow in their hearts local people began the tradition of throwing sacrificial cooked rice into the river.

Some believed that the rice would prevent the fish from consuming Qu Yuan’s body. Rice dumplings were made in the hopes that they would sink to the bottom of the river and the tradition of wrapping the dumplings in bamboo leaves began.

Today there are some traditions and superstitions associated with Dragon Boat Festival.

  1. Dragon Boat racing, boats between 40 and 100 feet holding up to 80 rowers are raced through a course, he firs to grab a flag at the end of the course wins the race. The boats are decorated with bright colors with the front ends shaped like open mouthed dragons. Before a race starts a sacred ceremony is performed and the dragons’ eyes are painted, this is said to bring the boat to life.
  2. Zhongzi, or rice dumplings are stuffed with a variety of filling and wrapped in corn or bamboo leaves. They are generally steamed; this is a traditional dragon boat festival snack.
  3. If, on Dragon Boat Festival, you can balance a raw egg on its end at exactly noon you will have a lucky year.
  4. In Taiwan people fetch water from a well at exactly noon and believe that it can cure all ailments.
  5. Drinking yellow wine and holding fragrant sachets is said to dispel evil and bring peace on this day.