The traditional Chinese folk festival, Dragon Boat Festival, occurs on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The Dragon Boat Festival is also called the Duanyang Festival. The festival has many alternative names, such as: the Dragon Boat Festival, Double Fifth, the May Festival, Orchid Bath Day, Girls Day, Poet Day, Dragon Day, etc.
There are many theories regarding the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival. According to historical records and archaeological research, the Dragon Boat Festival originated as a festival to worship totems by people of Wu-Yue in the south of ancient China. This theory is earlier than the story of Qu Yuan. However, for thousands of years, Qu Yuan’s patriotism and moving poetry have become widely accepted by the Chinese people. The people in the past “felt sorry and were sadden by his story, and the whole nation began to discuss and spread his words.” Therefore, the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival as commemoration of Qu Yuan holds the greatest influence in Chinese tradition. In the folk culture, the Chinese people connect the commemoration of Qu Yuan with activities such as racing dragon boats and eating Zongzi (pyramid-shaped snacks made of glutinous rice wrapped in reed leaves).
Even to this day, the Dragon Boat Festival is a very popular and grand festival for the Chinese people.
A Bit More Information:
Qu Yuan (c. 340—278 BC) was from Danyang (current day Zigui County, Hubei Province) in the country of Chu in the late Warring States period. He was a descendant of Qu Xia, who was the son of King Wu of Chu, Xiong Tong.
Although Qu Yuan was loyal to the King Huai of Chu, he was pushed aside multiple times. After the death of King Huai, King Qingxiang fell under the influence of slanders and banished Qu Yuan, who eventually committed suicide by throwing himself into the Miluo River.
Qu Yuan is one of China’s greatest poets in romanticism and also earliest famous poet known in China. He established the poetic form of Songs of Chu (Chu Ci) and created the poetic symbol of “fragrant grass and beautiful person”, used later to describe patriotic scholars. His representative works include the poems the Sorrow of Parting (Li Sao) and Nine Songs (Jiu Ge).