Duan Wu Festival is the fifth day of month five in
East Asia lunar calendars. Festivals in different cultures on this day: Dragon
Boat Festival in China, Kodomo no hi in Japan and Dano in Korea.
Duan Wu Festival or Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional Chinese festival held
on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar. It is also known as
the Double Fifth. It has since been celebrated, in various ways, in other parts
of East Asia as well. In the West, it’s commonly known as Dragon Boat Festival.
The exact origins of Duan Wu are unclear, but one traditional view holds that
the festival memorializes the Chinese poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC-278 BC) of the
Warring States Period. He committed suicide by drowning himself in a river
because he was disgusted by the corruption of the Chu government. The local
people, knowing him to be a good man, decided to throw food into the river to
feed the fish so they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body. They also sat on long,
narrow paddle boats called dragon boats, and tried to scare the fish away by the
thundering sound of drums aboard the boat and the fierce looking carved dragon
head on the boat’s prow. Other thoughts are that after Qu Yaun committed
suicide, that because the people loved him so much, they raced out to recover
his body, and the races signify the boats skimming across the water to find him.
However, researches have also revealed that the festival is also a celebration
that is characteristic of ancient Chinese agrarian society: the celebration of
the harvest of winter wheat, because similar celebrations had long existed in
many other parts of China where Qu Yuan was not known. As interactions between
Chinese residing in different regions increased, these similar festivals were
In the early years of the Chinese Republic, Duan Wu was also celebrated as
"Poets’ Day," due to Qu Yuan’s status as China’s first poet of personal renown.
Today, people eat bamboo-wrapped steamed rice dumplings called zongzi (dumpling)
and race dragon boats in memory of Qu Yuan’s death.