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Dears, the summer already steps into the stage for the weather is getting hotter and hotter. But, in the meantime, the best time for traveling in Tibet is also on the way. And if you are interested in Chinese festival culture, you could seize the early June, having a happy culture traveling in the south of China, like Suzhou, Miluo, Huangshi, Zigui and Hangzhou because Dragon Boat Festival is coming. 

Check out our sample tour plans for you:

2 Days Tour of Dragon Boat Race and Jiaxing Zongzi Tasting

2 Days Tour of Suzhou Dragon Boat Race and Tongli Water Town

Knowing Dragon Boat festival in China:

Dragon boat festival (also called Double Fifth Festival, in mandarin 端午节Duānwǔ Jié ) is one of the most important traditional festivals in China. 端duān means beginning in Chinese, therefore the fifth day of May in lunar calendar also called Duanwu. Most of the Han people celebrate Duanwu, and so do some minorities such as Zhuang, Buyi, Dong and Tujia. In 2008, it becomes an official public holiday in China together with Qingming Festival, Mid Autumn Day and Spring Festival. In 2011, it falls on June 6.
Dragon boat festival is a statutory holiday not only in China but also in some other countries which are heavily influenced by Chinese culture, for instance Japan, Vietnam and Korea. However, the meanings of the festival are not the same any more. In Japan, it becomes a holiday of boys and a public memorial ceremony in Jiangling, Korean. Moreover, some Chinese communities in Singapore and Malaysia celebrate this special festival, too.

Origins of the Dragon Boat Festival in China:

There are many legends about the origins of Dragon Boat Festival. But the most popular story is Qu Yuan version which is widely accepted in China.
To commemorate the death of poet Qu Yuan 
Happy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaQuquan( 340B.C.—278B.C.) was born in a noble family of the ancient state of Chu. When he served as a minister in the government, he claimed to hire the capable brains and improve the interior affairs policies; clearly, he supported the idea of uniting the state of Qi to against the state of Qin which was getting powerful day by day. But, some ministers like Zilan(子兰) and Jin Shang(靳尚) as well as the imperial concubine Zheng Xiu(郑袖) were bribed by Qin’s emissary Zhang Yi(张仪).Persuaded by these dogs, the King of Chu ignored Qu’s strategy and banished him. As a result, the King was induced to the State of Qin where he was imprisoned until die. The successor still didn’t put QuYuan in an important position and continue banishing Qu to the regions south of the Yangtze River. During the banishment, Qu Yuan had written a number of poems which expressing his ideal state. In 278 BC, Baiqi(白起),the senior general of Qin, conquered the capital of Chu. So disappointed and helpless, Qu Yuan killed himself by jumping into the Miluo River(汨罗江) on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
As soon as the local people heard the news that Qu Yuan committed suicide, they made great efforts to save the poet, boating along the river to the Dongting Lake. However, no matter how hard they tried, they still could not find the body. After boating and searching in the rain for a long time, the upset people were afraid that fish would treat the poet’s body as a meal, so some of them hurried back home to bring rice dumplings then threw them into the river; the rest kept paddling oars to scare the fish away. Gradually, it developed into the customs of dragon boat racing and eating Zongzi(rice dumpling).
To commemorate the death of Wu Zixu 
Happy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaWu Zixu(伍子胥559B.C.—484B.C.)was born in the state of Chu. His father and elder brother were involved in a political conspiracy and killed by the king of Chu. So Wu Zixu fled to the state of Wu. The love to the mother land was replaced by revenge. He devoted himself to the Wu’s extension. Like a gifted strategist, he conquered the capital of Chu in five wars and consolidated his influence in the government of Wu. With his outstanding talent,the state of Wu got more powerful and conquered the state of Yue after Fuchai becoming the king. However, no hero can pass the barrier of beauty; Fuchai was totally infatuated with the Yue girl Xishi who was titled the first of the four beauties in ancient China. Hence, Zixu was forced to commit suicide by the king Fuchai.Before his death, he requested a neighbor to hang his eyes on the city gate of Wu because he knew Yue would conquer Wu some day. This saying pissed the king off; he ordered to throw Wu Zixu’s body into the river on the fifth day of the fifth month. Then, in order to remember Wu Zixu, Suzhou people changed the name of the river into Xu River.
To commemorate the death of Cao E
This theory appears on <Cao E’ stele> of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). Cao’s father drowned himself in the river accidently when he was presiding over a ceremony commemorating Wu Zixu during the Duanwu Festival.Cao E(曹娥,A.D.130-A.D.143), only 14 years old, crying while walking along the river days and nights. Even, 17 days passed, her father’s body still cannot be found. So the little girl jumped into the river. Five days later, her body and his father’s body were both found at the river. For praising and promoting Cao’s fealty,a temple had been built in her hometown Shangyu and the river also had been changed into Cao E River.
The day full of evil
In the Pre-Qin Period, there was an old saying among the common people: May was the hottest month and the fifth day of May was the worst day ever. It is said that the five poisonous creatures always came out on this day. And if a baby was born on this day, it was definitely not a good omen at all; it might even be harmful to the parents. So, it really made sense when people inserted calamus or drank realgar wine this day for they just tried to drive evil away.

Customs of the Dragon Boat Festival in China:


Happy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaHappy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaHappy a True Dragon Boat Festival in China

Eating Zongzi:
Zongzi (
粽子)is a very traditional Chinese food for Dragon Boat Festival. It was made of glutinous rice.Before eating, you need to steam or boil it. To the western foreigners, they get another name which is rice dumpling. There are two sayings about Zongzi. One is related to Qu Yuan, because people who admired Qu Yuan threw many rice dumplings into the river to keep the fish away; the other is about the dragon that lived under the river, once he gets the delicious Zongzi, he would not hurt any person.
For thousand years, the Zongzi we could see today have already changed a lot in both shapes and fillings. In the north of China, it was wrapped in reed leaves and shaped in triangle; while in the south, it was wrapped with bamboo leaves and shaped in tetrahedral.The steamed Zongzi with fresh bamboo flavor always make people mouth watering. The fillings used for Zongzi can reflect region features. Different from the south, the fillings in northern part are very sweet, like red beans, dates while the fillings vary from meat, egg yolk, to chestnuts in the southern part. The famous brand of Zongzi is Wufangzhai(五芳斋).
Making Zongzi need family members work together and wrapping is really a skillful job. In my point of view, if you have a chance to learn how to make Zongzi, just go for it. Can you imagine how the shape will be like? Prove it! 

By the way, a quick question, do you know the traditional food for Qingming Festival, Mid autumn Day and Chinese New Year?

Happy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaHappy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaHappy a True Dragon Boat Festival in China

Racing dragon boats
Probably, we should say that racing dragon boats are the most exciting thing during the festival. It is very popular in the south of China. About the origin, many people believe it has a connection with searching Qu Yuan’s body. However, some folk-custom experts agree it is kind of offering ceremony to the dragon or water god dated back to the last phase of primitive communes. Anyway, it was listed as one of the national nonmaterial cultural heritages and became the official competition item in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, 2010.
Dragon Boats are generally canoes which are decorated well and painted brightly. Their bows are shaped like dragon’s head but with different configuration and the sterns are shaped like tails of dragons. A drummer and flag-catcher will stand at the front of the boat. The dragon must be painted with eyes in a big ceremony before it starts the competition; thus, the dragon is alive. As the gun is fired, audiences at the two banks will see brave racers in canoes paddling the oars harmoniously and hurriedly; and the dragon boat accompanied with rapid drums, speeding toward their same destination. The winner will be the one who grabs a flag firstly.
Nowadays, we share the same exciting racing dragon boat with the Chinese communities in Singapore and America.

Happy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaHappy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaHappy a True Dragon Boat Festival in China


Ay-tscao and calamus on the door

perfumed medicine bags

Drinking realgar wine
Realgar wine (xiónghuángjiǔ雄黄酒) is an alcohol drink with realgar powder. As a medicinal material, realgar is always used for detoxification and killing insects. In ancient China, people even thought it could restrain snakes and scorpions. That’s why they drink Xionghuang jiu. But now, according to the scientists saying, due to the corrosion of realgar, one should drink only a little under the prescription of the doctor.
About realgar wine, we have a beautiful love story about Lady White snake and Xu Xian. As I mentioned, Lady White was a snake who took a shape of a woman. When she toured on the West Lake in a rainy day, she met Xu Xian on the broken bridge, whom White Snake fell in love with and married shortly. On a dragon boat festival, Xu offered realgar wine to White Snake. Resisting the effect of realgar, White Snake turned back to a snake, which shocked Xu to death. For saving her husband, she tried her best to ask for help through the earth and heaven. After many sufferings and setbacks, she succeeded in saving her husband. This is a great and widespread love story in China.
Keeping the evil and disease away
When summer is coming, diseases are likely to strike. In order to drive the evil sprits and keep healthy, Chinese people use a lot of ways. Ay-tscao and calamus were admitted to have an effect on scaring the evil away. Therefore, on this festival, you can see people tying a bunch of Ay-tscao or calamus together and inserting it on the lintel. With the same consideration, icons of Zhong Kui (a mythic guardian figure) will be hung on the living room; children will wear perfumed medicine bags to avoid insects.
Other traditional customs:
Making a raw egg stand at noon, then you will be lucky in the rest of the year.
Eating Wuhuang(吃五黄): in the regions south of the Yangtze River, Five Huang are supposed to be traditional dishes for lunch this day because they will bring good luck, especially in Hangzhou. They are: Yellow croaker, cucumber, salt yolk, Realgar wine and ricefield eel.

Where to happy Dragon Boat Festival (or Duanwu Cultural Festival ) in China
Duanwu Cultural Festival is getting more and more popular since Dragon Boat Festival becomes an offical holiday. Many places in China will hold lots of activites to celebrate this traditional festival, such as dragon boat racing and the competition  of making Zongzi.In Qu Yuan's hometown Zigui, you even coulld see people wearing  Han dress  commemorate him.
Happy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaHappy a True Dragon Boat Festival in ChinaHappy a True Dragon Boat Festival in China

Xixi National Wetland Park,  Hangzhou

Suzhou, Wu Zixu is the city founder

Zigui----Qu Yuan's hometown
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