The Dragon Boat Festival, or Duānwǔ Jié, is one of the four main traditional Chinese festivals, together with Spring Festival, Tomb-Sweeping Day, and Mid-Autumn Festival.
Duānwǔ Jié means something like ‘Start-of the-Fifth-Solar-Month Festival’. It is a public holiday that lasts for 3 days, including the fifth day of the fifth month. That is why it is also called Double Fifth Festival.
The origin of the festival is tied to the legendary story of Qu Yuan, a poet and minister during the Warring States Period (481 BC – 221 BC). When his beloved Chu State fell, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo river on the fifth day of the fifth month. Locals tried to safe the poet or recover his body, yet, to no avail. In order to commemorate Qu Yuan, on Dragon Boat Festival people beat drums and paddle out in boats on the river as they once did to keep fish and evil spirits away from his body. Besides eating sticky rice dumplings (zongzi), dragon boat races form a traditional element of this festival. A dragon boat is a long, narrow rowing boat, which can accommodate roughly 50 rowers. The rowers are ‘directed’ by the rhythm of drums, in an attempt to cross the finish line first. Furthermore, during Dragon Boat Festival, attention is paid to health.