The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional public holiday that commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan. The festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunisolar calendar.

Dragon Boat Festival 2023 Date
201907. Jun 2019
202025. Jun 2020
202114. Jun 2021
202203. Jun 2022
202322. Jun 2023

This festival is a celebration where many eat rice dumplings, drink wine and race dragon boats. Other traditional activities include hanging icons of Zhong Kui (Chinese mythic figure), taking long walks and wearing perfumed medicine bags.

Among Malaysian, Singaporean, and Taiwanese speakers, the festival is also known as the “Fifth Month Festival,” the “Fifth Day Festival,” and the “Dumpling Festival.”

History of the Dragon Boat Festival

The fifth lunar month is traditionally considered as unlucky month. People believed that natural disasters and illnesses are more common during this month. To get rid of the misfortune, people would put flowers and garlic above the doors during this month.

The story best known in modern China holds that the festival commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty.

Big ceremonies and performances developed from these practices in many areas, making the Dragon Boat Festival a day for getting rid of disease and bad luck. Decorating doors by hanging wormwood and calamus plants is an important ritual. People believe that doing so will drive evil spirits and diseases away.

In the early 20th Century the Dragon Boat Festival was observed from the first to the fifth days of the fifth month and known as the Festival of Five Poisonous Insects.

Dragon Boat Racing and Zongzi

Dragon boat racing has a rich history of ancient ceremonial and ritualistic traditions, which originated in southern central China more than 2500 years ago.

The legend starts with the story of Qu Yuan, who was a minister in one of the Warring State governments, Chu. He was slandered by jealous government officials and banished by king. Out of disappointment in the Chu monarch, he drowned himself into the Miluo river.

The common people rushed to the water and tried to recover his body. In commemoration of Qu Yuan, people hold dragon boat races yearly on the day of his death according to the legend.

A notable part of celebrating Dragon Boat Festival is making and eating zongzi with family members and friends. People traditionally wrap zongzi in leaves of reed, lotus or banana forming a pyramid shape.

The reason Chinese eat zongzi on this special day is because they are considered as a symbol of luck, as the pronunciation of zong is remarkably like the pronunciation of Zhong (中). This character has a positive connotation.