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The DuanWu Festival The DuanWu Festival (also called The Dragon Boat Festival) is traditionally celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar.
The Duanwu Festival commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan, he was a loyal minister that served the King of Chu during the Warring States Period in 3 centuries ago. Initially, his sovereign favored Qu Yuan, but over time, his wisdom and erudite ways antagonized the other court officials. And then he was Trumped up a charge of conspiracy, and ejected by his sovereign. During the exile, Qu Yuan made many poems to express his anger and sorrow of his sovereign and people. In the year 295 B.C., at the age of 37, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Milo River. He clasped a heavy stone to his chest and leaped into the water. Knowing that Qu Yuan was a righteous man, the people of Chu rushed to the river to try to save him. The people desperately searched the waters in their boats looking for Qu Yuan, but they were unsuccessful in their attempt to rescue him. Every year the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to commemorate this attempt at rescuing Qu Yuan.
When it was known that Qu Yuan had been lost forever, the local people began the tradition of throwing sacrificial cooked rice into the river for their lost hero. However, a local fisherman had a dream that Qu Yuan did not get any of the cooked rice that was thrown into the river in his honor. Instead, it was the fishes in the river that had eaten the rice. So, the following year, the tradition of wrapping the cooked rice in bamboo leaves was begun. The cooked rice wrapped in bamboo leaves later came to be known as Zong zi. There is also another version of the story. When it was known that Qu Yuan had been lost to the river, the local fisherman had a dream that the fishes in the river were eating Qu Yuan's body. The local people came up with the idea that if the fishes in the river were not hungry, then they would not eat Qu Yuan's body. So the local people began the tradition of throwing Zong zi into the river to feed the fishes in hope that Qu Yuan's body would be spared.
The actual Chinese Boat Festival was an rescue attempt mission to save the famous patriotic poet Qu Yuan. The races today are held to honor Qu Yuan who drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. People of China also throw rice into the river in which he died to keep the fish from eating his body.
History Origins The Duanwu Festival is believed to have originated in ancient China. A number of theories exist about its origins as a number of folk traditions and explanatory myths are connected to its observance. Today the best known of these relates to the suicide in 278 BC of Qu Yuan, poet and statesman of the Chu kingdom during the Warring States period.
Qu Yuan The best-known traditional story holds that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC - 278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu, in the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty. A descendant of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance. Qu Yuan was accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin conquered the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth month. It is said that the local people, who admired him, threw food into the river to feed the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan's body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.
Wu Zixu Despite the modern popularity of the Qu Yuan origin theory, in the former territory of the state of Wu the festival commemorated Wu Zixu (526 BC - 484 BC). Like Qu Yuan, Wu Zixu was a loyal advisor whose advice was ignored by the king to the detriment of the kingdom. Wu Zixu was forced to commit suicide by the king Fuchai, with his body thrown into the river on the fifth day of the fifth month. After his death, Wu Zixu was revered as a river god. In places such as Suzhou, in Jiangsu province, Wu Zixu is remembered during the Duanwu Festival to this day.
Three of the most widespread activities for the Duanwu Festival are eating (and preparing) zongzi, an angular rice ball wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves; drinking realgar wine, and racing dragon boats.
Other common activities include hanging up icons of Zhong Kui (a mythic guardian figure), hanging up mugwort and calamus, taking long walks, and wearing perfumed medicine bags. Other traditional activities include a game of making an egg stand at noon, and writing spells. All of these activities, together with the drinking of realgar wine, were regarded by the ancients as effective in preventing disease or evil and promoting health and well-being.