Why China celebrates Dragon Boat day

We are approaching yet another Chinese festival.   This one is Dragon boat day, which falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month of the year.

This holiday is celebrated not only in China but in other places where there are sizable Chinese communities.

Typical activities are eating zongzi (a rice dumpling wrapped in banana leaves) and racing dragon boats.

Proudly holding up his zongzi

Proudly holding up his zongzi

Learning to make zongzi

Learning to make zongzi

As always, there are a few different versions of how this holiday originates.   The favourite is the story of Qu Yuan, a poet who committed suicide by jumping in the river.  Local people threw zongzi in the water after him so that he wouldn’t be hungry in the afterlife (the reason they are wrapped in the leaves, the legend goes, is so that they weren’t eaten by the fishes) and this is where the traditional food comes from

The local people are said to have paddled out in boats to retrieve the body, and this is where the origin of dragon boat racing comes from.

Guangzhou Er-sha Island

Dragon Boat racing in Guangzhou Er-sha Island

There are other similar stories, although they all seem to involve someone jumping, falling or being thrown into the river and the zongzi being thrown in after them.

The dragon boat racing pulls a huge crowd, particularly in places like Hong Kong.  In Guangzhou people assemble on Ersha Island to watch, but actually it was over pretty quickly and there’s not a lot to see.


Leave a Reply