Chinese Dragon Boat Festival and QU Yuan

2021.6.15  The Dragon Boat Festival, Qu Yuan and Chu Ci 楚辞

The fifth day of the fifth lunar month is a traditional Chinese folk festival - the Dragon Boat Festival 端午节. Duan Wu Jie together with Chun Jie (Spring Festival) and Zhong Qiu Jie (Mid-Autumn Festival) are the most important folk festivals in China. These festivals are all ethical festivals that are related to blood relationship. People celebrate with families and normally at home.

People celebrate Duan Wu Jie by eating Zongzi 粽子, a pyramid-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. People hold dragon-boat races. These activities are to commemorate the great patriotic poet QU Yuan 屈原 (342 B.C. - 278 B.C.) in ancient China. QU Yuan was a Minister of feudatory country Chu of the Warring States Period. He advocated to unite other feudatory countries to against Qin. The king of Chu did not listen to him, instead exiled him. Chu was perished by Qin. QU Yuan then drowned himself in the Miluo River after he heard about the news of his country's fall. It was the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 278 B.C. 

When people heard the news, they rowed their boats to try and find his corpse, but failed. In order not to let the fish and shrimps eat the corpse, people threw food into the river to feed them. Later on, it has become a tradition and festival that people make and enjoy Zongzi, the glutinous rice dumpling and staging dragon-boat race on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month each year.

QU Yuan was also the best representative poet of Chu Ci 楚辞, a new style of poetry after the Book of Songs《诗经》. The use of myths and fantasies, the strange twists of imagination, the vigorous surge of feelings and beautiful verses in Chu Ci demonstrate a unique romanticism that has never faded. QU Yuan was recommended and cited as an outstanding cultural figure in the world, his masterpieces were After Departure《离骚》, Asking Heaven《天问》, Nine Songs《九歌》. You can even read Chu Ci in Dutch "De Gezangen van CHU"! Amsterdam University Press published the book this year in April, see more from this link:

Some Chinese words to learn:

     五月初五    wǔ yuè chū wǔ    the fifth day of the fifth lunar month
     端午节        duānwǔ jié           Dragon boat festival
     粽子            zòngzi                  glutinous rice dumpling with various filling wrapped in bamboo leaves
     赛龙舟        sài lóngzhōu       dragon boat race
     爱国诗人    àiguó shīrén       patriotic poet 
     春节            chūn jié               Spring festival (Chinese new year)
     中秋节       zhōngqiū jié        Mid-Autumn festival