History of Dragonboating

Officially on falling on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Double Fifth Day. There are many stories regarding its origin, the most popular and widely accepted version is about the great statesman, pholosopher and poet, Qu Yuan.

Below is a short explanation of how dragon boating came about and why the double 5th is so important in the Dragon Boat calendar.

At the end of the Zhou Dynasty, the area we know today as China had fallen into a state of conflict and fragmentation. While the Zhou dynasty had ruled for several centuries, several other states, vied for power in the region. Qu Yuan was a minister to the Zhou empreror, during the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC). He was highly regarded by the people as he fought corruption and always considered their interests. He did much to fight against the rampant corruption that plagued the court-- thereby earning the envy and fear of other officials. He advised the emperor against a war with Qin but his political adversaries saw this as a chance to get rid of him. Sadly he was banished by the empreror and he was thrown out of the court. In exile, he traveled, taught and wrote for several years. The state of Qin eventually emerged as the victor and unified all of China, under one rule, for the first time in history.On hearing that the Zhou had been defeated by the Qin,Qu Yuan fell into despair and threw himself into the Milou River. His last poem reads:

Many a heavy sigh I have in my despair,
Grieving that I was born in such an unlucky time.
I yoked a team of jade dragons to a phoenix chariot,
And waited for the wind to come,
to sour up on my journey

As he was so loved by the people, fishermen rushed out in long boats, beating drums to scare the fish away, and throwing zong zi into the water to feed braver fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan's body.

Modern Dragon Boat Festival

This is the basis of the dragon boat festival in China held each year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is a significant holiday celebrated in China, and the one with the longest history.

The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated by boat races in the shape of dragons. Competing teams row their boats forward to a drumbeat racing to reach the finish end first.
The boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival are traditional customs to attempts to rescue the patriotic poet Qu Yuan. He drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 B.C. Chinese citizens now throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water. Therefore the fish could eat the rice rather than the hero poet. This later on turned into the custom of eating tzungtzu and rice dumplings.

The celebration's is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year. It is done so by different practices such as hanging healthy herbs on the front door, drinking nutritious concoctions, and displaying portraits of evil's nemesis, Chung Kuei. If one manages to stand an egg on it's end at exactly 12:00 noon, the following year will be a lucky one.

 

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