Dragon Boat Festival: Legends & Traditions

Dragon Boat Festival has been celebrated for over 2000 years and has spread around the entire region, even further...

Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most popular holidays in China. It has been celebrated for over 2000 years and has spread around the entire region, even further… The festival is also celebrated in North Korea, South Korea, Japan, some countries in South East Asia, parts of Europe and North America.

dragon boat festival

The Legend

It all began with the death of Qu Yuan, one of the most popular Chinese poets. He was a high rang minister in the State of Chu who advocated for strengthening the army and preparing to defend the state in the face of a potential threat by the powerful Qin. However, he was strongly opposed by the court and eventually he fell in disgrace. Qu Yuan was exhaled by the king and ordered to never return to the State of Chu.

Even from a distance, the poet still cared deeply for his home country. He wrote many great and impactful poems… until one day, the news arrived that his beloved State of Chu was destroyed and taken over by the Qin.

Qu Yuan fell in deep sorrow and on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, he drowned himself in the Miluo River. When the people found out, they started a search for his body. Many fishermen raced up and down the river with their boats in hopes to find it. People were throwing rice dumplings to feed the fish so it stays away from his body…

This is how the festival was born – to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan. To this day, it is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month.

The Traditions

Dragon Boat Racing

This is absolutely the most popular tradition of the Dragon Boat Festival. Born out of the boat search for Qu Yuan’s body, nowadays, Dragon Boat Racing is a competitive sport. It is a treasured cultural heritage and a beloved team competition. The beautiful dragon-shaped boats race in the water while the teams row in a synchronized rhythm under the sound of drums.

Eating Zongzi

Zongzi is a traditional sticky rice dumpling wrapped in leafs and tied with a string. Its center filling varies between the different parts of the country – it could be dates, meat, veggies, egg yolk, etc. The tradition comes again from the legend of Qu Yuan when people were throwing rice dumplings to feed the fish.

Wearing Incense Bags

During the festival, kids ware small bags of incense – usually fragrant herbs and powders such as wormwood, realgar, calamus, etc. Those are believed to bring health and keep evil spirits away.

Hanging Calamus and Wormwood on Doors/Windows

It is also believed that by hanging calamus and wormwood on doors and/or windows would bring health to the whole family and keep evil away.


Find out more about Chinese Culture and Traditions:

Chinese Cooking Lessons

Chinese Art Lessons (painting, calligraphy and more)

Mandarin Lessons

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