Duanwu Jie

Duanwu Jie (Zong Festival)

The story of Duanwu Jie (端午节) 

Duanwu Festival is an important date on the Chinese lunar calendar. It is celebrated every year on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. This year it falls on 28th of May. It commemorates the death of the poet Qu Yuan (屈原), who lived about 300 BC. He was a scholar and a minister in the court of the King of Chu (楚) during the Warring States period (403-221 BC) in the Zhou Dynasty. He was a patriotic statesman and was admired by the people. Because of imminent threat from the State of Qin (秦), Qu Yuan proposed reforms and alliance with the State of Qi (齐)to ensure the safety of  the state. Having accepted bribes from the envoy of Qin, the corrupt King Huai of Chu, not only rejected Qu Yuan’s advice, but accused him of treason and so Qu Yuan was banished. (In case you wonder, what happened to King Huai, he was tricked by the envoy into going to Qin, where he died after three years of captivity). His love for his homeland and the people was expressed in his poems written during his exile. Although Qu Yuan’s proposal was ignored, his prophecy was fulfilled when the capital of Chu was conquered by Qin  28 years later.  In desperation the broken-hearted Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River in Hunan, on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. The local people threw food into the river so that Qu Yuan’s body could be spared by the fish. Others raced to retrieve his body from the river, in their boats. What the people did on that occasion has now become the way this day is remembered. Food was later wrapped in bamboo leaves and thrown into the river as an offering to the great poet’s spirit. This form of wrapping food in pyramid shape has become our present day zhongzi (粽子), which is enjoyed by all every year during Duanwu Festival. The racing of boats to retrieve Qu Yuan’s body has become the modern day Dragon boat race (赛龙舟). This is why in some parts of the world, Duanwu Festival is also known as “Dragon Boat” Festival.