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What do People Do on Dragon Boat Festival?


The Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Festival is one of the four traditional Chinese festivals, along with Spring Festival, Qingming Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival. Since the beginning of the festival, people row dragon boats and eat zongzi, a glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves to celebrate.

Ancestor Worship and Dragon Boat Race

There are two different explanations of the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival. Some people believe that the Dragon Boat Festival is in memory of Wu Zixu; some people celebrate this festival for Cao’e. But most people in China deem the Dragon Boat Festival as a day to commemorate Qu Yuan, the great patriotic poet of State Chu in ancient China who jumped into Miluo River because of the demise of his motherland. To honor his spirit, Qu Yuan was conferred a posthumous title as Zhongliegong (Duke Martyr) in Song Dynasty, almost 1000 years after Qu Yuan’s death. Soon after his death, people in State Chu boated to find his body, and to drive the fish away so that Qu Yuan’s body would not be eaten.

Smear Realgar Wine

Realgar wine or Xionghuang wine is traditionally consumed as part of the Dragon Boat Festival at the height of summer. Ancient Chinese believed realgar was an antidote for all poisons, and therefore most effective to drive away evil spirits and kill insects. So everyone would drink some realgar wine during the Duanwu Festival, and children would have the Chinese character of "King" written on their foreheads with realgar wine.

Hanging Calamus and Mugwort

People believe plenty evil things would revive in May. Hence on the Dragon Boat Festival, people in Beijing tend to hang calamus and mugwort on the door or walls of their house to repel evil things. The leaf of calamus resemble the sword in shape, hence, calamus is also known as water sword. People also make accessories by using calamus, and give them to children. Because they consider the water sword is able to kill evil things and keep children safe. Some people use the root of calamus to make wine to pursuit longevity.

Grass Competition

On the Dragon Boat Festival, children in Beijing would make grass competition. One grass competition is comparing the tenacity of grasses, and the most resilient grass would be deemed as the king of the grasses. Another grass competition is comparing the variety and novelty of the grasses picked by competitors.

Visiting Parental Home

In Beijing, the Dragon Boat Festival is also called the Daughter’s Festival when married women will visit their parental home. Hence, on that day, you can see married women wearing colorful silk threads on arms and red flower on their bosoms in Beijing.

Wearing Colorful Rice Dumplings and Sachet

Colorful rice dumpling is an amulet. People use hard paper to fold rice dumplings, usually 2cm large, and wrapped the paper rice dumpling with colorful threads, then string several paper rice dumplings together. Besides, people would also wear sachets for decoration. It is said that sachet can repel evil things.


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