Celebrated in China and in Chinese communities across the world, the annual Dragon Boat Festival is a cultural showcase, featuring ornate rowing boats, rowed by 80 -100 people to the beat of large traditional drums. But there’s more to the festival than simply messing about in boats.
Also known as the Duanwu Festival, this event commemorates the death of the famous Chinese poet Qu Yuan. Having occupied many prestigious positions in government, Qu Yuan was banished for opposing a new political alliance. When the alliance went sour 28 years later, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Miluo River in a fit of despair and killed himself. (A simple ‘I told you so’ would probably have sufficed?) The locals, who admired Qu Yuan, threw lumps of rice into the river to stop the fish from eating his body, giving rise to the current tradition of throwing rice into the river where the races take place.
Traditional activities around the time of the races (aside from the races themselves) include eating Zongzi – glutinous rice stuffed with various fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves – and hanging mugwort leaves.