Dragon Boat Festival

You have probably seen the brightly painted, dragon-faced boats of Asia. These long, slender vessels are a key part of one of the three main holidays of China.  No one knows for sure how the festival began, but here’s one story that most Chinese believe.

About 200 BC a well-loved Chinese leader, Chu Yuan was trying to bring peace to China.  When he realized that there were still groups warring against one another he was so sad that he threw himself into a river and drowned.

People who loved him began racing their boats to get to his body before fish would eat it.  Crowds threw balls of sticky rice into the river to try and distract the fish so they would leave his body alone.

It is from this story that the Dragon Boat festival began.  Each year, around June 5th, Chinese gather their painted boats and prepare for races.  The last thing they do before the race is paint the “eyes” on the dragon at the front of the boat as this is supposed to bring it to life.  After the eyes are painted, they hold boat races to the loud beating of drums.

Alongside the river people eat balls of sticky rice called “zongzi” as they remember the story of long ago.

It is a time of fun and festivities that marks the beginning of summer. The government has also used this as a time to remind people that summer launches the “season of sicknesses” so they teach people how to stay healthy and keep clean.