Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, is one of the most celebrated festivals in China. The festival was listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage in 2009.
There are many versions concerning the origin of the festival, and the most influential one is related to Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet from the State of Chu during the Warring States Period. Qu Yuan wrote many famous poems, expressing deep concern and love for his country and its people.
One of his famous lines from the poem "Li Sao" goes, "Long, long had been my road and far, far was the journey; I would go up and down to seek my heart's desire."
In 278 BC, after his beloved country had been defeated, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River. Legend has it that villagers went out with boats and threw sticky rice dumplings into the water to prevent fish from eating his corpse. This is how Zongzi became a popular dish during the annual festival.
Zongzi is a festive staple made of glutinous rice stuffed with various fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. Nowadays, special-flavored Zongzi, such as matcha or fruit-flavored ones, have gained popularity among young people.
In Qu Yuan's hometown, Zigui County of Hubei Province, a grand boat race is held every year during the festival. Today, dragon boat racing has evolved from a traditional Chinese folk activity into an international sporting and cultural event.
Other traditions associated with the Dragon Boat Festival include drinking realgar wine, wearing sachets, and hanging mugwort and calamus over doors. These traditions have been passed down from generation to generation.