Dragon Boat Festival Legend

The Dragon Boat Festival in the Chinese language is called “Duan-wu Jie”, also referred to as the “Double Fifth Festival”. It takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, which corresponds to different dates in the modern Gregorian Calendar. The Dragon Boat Festival symbolizes the official beginning of summer and is one of three major traditional national holidays in China.

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The origin of the Dragon Boat Festival can be dated back to the Warring States period (a war period during the coexistence of several dominating states) in ancient China, and a patriotic story was involved. The hero in the legend was named Qu Yuan, a great Chinese poet and minister and a passionate patriot serving the State of Chu at the time.

Qu Yuan was loyal and faithful to his majesty and nation, and he made political suggestions solely for his nation’s interests. However, the political body was corrupted, and Qu Yuan was slandered. The king didn’t believe in him or take his patriotic suggestions; instead, he expelled Qu Yuan from the country.

During Qu Yuan’s life in exile, he was anxious and worried about his nation, and he spent much of his time writing poetry expressing his concerns for his nation. He was disappointed by the corrupted politics in his nation and became depressed as his nation became weaker. Even though Qu Yuan was not rightfully treated by his majesty, he was still patriotic to his nation. One day, learning that their enemy had captured his capital, Qu Yuan became desperate, and he chose to end his life by holding a rock and drowning himself in the Miluo River. He was protesting against that corrupted era.

Qu Yuan

The local people, who admired Qu Yuan, grieved over his suicide and raced out in their boats to save him or at least retrieve his body. Meanwhile, their boats were decorated as dragons to scare away the fish from Qu Yuan’s body, as the dragon is considered to be the ruler of rivers and seas. This is said to be the origin of the Dragon boat racing. To their dismay, the people could not find Qu Yuan’s body. All they could do was throw sticky rice balls into the river, hoping that they could feed the fish so that the fish would not eat Qu Yuan’s body. Those sticky rice balls are what we call “zongzi” today. You can read about zongzi in our other article dedicated to this festival: Dragon Boat Festival in China.

people-throwing-rice

Besides eating “zongzi,” another popular activity on this holiday is watching or participating in dragon boat racing. Dragon boat, as the name suggests, is decorated in the form of a Chinese dragon, which is a traditional Chinese mascot. The sizes and particulars of dragon boats vary across different ethnic groups in China. One of the most common types of dragon boats in racing is the team of every boat consisting of about thirty paddlers and a drummer, who sets the rhythm to support the fighting spirit of the squad. The racing of dragon boats is extremely beautiful, exciting, and thrilling. During the race, the boats look like fire-breathing dragons speeding on the water to gain victory with enthusiastic cheering.

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The Dragon Boat Festival has become known worldwide, and it is attracting people from different countries to China to enjoy this particular atmosphere and cultural experience.

Dragon boat racing has become extremely popular in countries outside of China. Boat competition is not only a Chinese tradition but also an internationally recognized sports activity prevalent in over thirty countries worldwide.

We welcome you to watch the video to experience the unique atmosphere of the festival and witness its charm and enthusiasm! Be ready to be wowed by how beautiful and extraordinary it can be. Watch the video!


This article describes only a small part of the greatness of the Dragon Boat Festival and its ancient traditions. The festival, rich in cultural heritage! It is a time for families to come together, honor historical figures, and participate in various community activities that have been passed down through generations. The Dragon Boat Festival not only showcases the unique customs of the past but also reinforces the values of unity and teamwork in today’s society.