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Dragon Boat Festivals Celebration
Dragon Boat Festivals
by Mariette Pan

The Dragon Boat Festival, also called the "Poet's Festival," commemorates the death of the ancient Chinese poet-statesman, Qu Yuan, who threw himself into the Miluo River 2,500 years ago out of despair over the corrupt condition of the government.

Legend tells that Qu Yuan was well-loved and respected for his virtue and fidelity. Thus, after Qu Yuan’s suicide by drowning, people launched boats to search for his body to give him a proper burial. After an unsuccessful search, they threw rice dumplings into the river to divert the attention of the fish from Qu's body.

Similar stories state that the people set out with these rice dumplings across the river in boats with flags and gongs, striving to be first to arrive at the spot of the tragedy to sacrifice to the spirit of the statesman. From these legends evolved the practice of commemorating the anniversary of Qu's death by eating zong zi, which are typically glutinous rice, meat and beans wrapped in bamboo leaves. This is also the origin of the Dragon Boat races.

To this day people celebrate this festival by hanging branches of fragrant herbs, either Chinese mugwort or calamus, in front of their homes, to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune. In addition, colorful herb-filled sachets are worn around the necks of children and men drink realgar wine for the same purpose.

This festival was typically celebrated by long, narrow boats, measuring 125 feet in length, 2 1/2 feet in depth and 5 1/2 feet in width. Ornamented with a dragon's head at the bow and a dragon's tail at the stern, these boats carried men beating gongs and drums and waving flags for inspiration to rower. Historically occupied by sixty men, these boats could be seen racing up and down the river in pairs, as if searching for someone who has drowned.

The Dragon Boat Festival typically occurs after the harvest of the year is completed. It falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month which is usually late-May to mid-June of our calendar. Dragon Boat Festivals are celebrated throughout the summer.

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