The Remarkable Background of the Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival has been held for centuries. However, not many people know the origins behind it. Follow along to learn the exciting background!

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Traditions have been around since the first human beings walked the earth. Moreover, everyone carries a certain type of culture and the traditions that come with it. However, not all traditions are the same, and some are wildly different. In addition to these traditions, a constant type of tradition is festivals. Festivals have been around for centuries. These festivals have different meanings or events that get celebrated or remembered. One of these festivals is the Dragon Boat Festival.

Trigger Warning: The mention of suicide may be triggering for some readers. Please exercise personal care when reading.

Politics and Poems

The Dragon Boat Festival is a celebration that begins on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese calendar. This festival remembers the famous poet and political figure Qu Yuan. He was famous for his progressive political ideals during the Warring States Period (476-221 BC). One of these ideals was to ally with the other states to fight against Qin. However, other politicians were jealous of Qu Yuan and slandered him. The Chu king believed their lies and exiled Qu Yuan.


During the time of his exile, Qu Yuan wrote 25 poems that expressed the love of his state (Chu) and its people. His poem Li Sao was his most famous work. This poem got published with other works such as The Nine Songs, Asking Heaven, and The Nine Elegies. Qu Yan is China’s first poet and the founder of romanticism in Chinese literature. However, this story does not have a happy ending. In 278 BC, Qu Yuan heard that Qin had taken over Chu. Afterward, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Miluo River in the Hunan Provence and died with his country. The locals tried to save Qu Yuan and then to find his body; unfortunately, he was never recovered.

Making Connections

Despite the loss of Qu Yuan’s body, the locals beat at the water with paddles and threw rice balls into the water. This was to keep fish or evil spirits away from it. However, in different legends, the spirit of Qu Yuan appears before the people. He asks them to wrap rice in three-cornered packages to ward off a dragon. In memory of this patriotic poet, a Dragon Boat Festival is always held on the anniversary of his death. The sticky rice dumpling dish called zongzi and boat races commemorate and remember him.


In light of this information, the background of this festival makes it more memorable. It celebrates China’s first poet in an interesting way. The love that Qu Yuan held for his state and people showed through his poems and political ideals. He is now remembered in Dragon Boat Festivals in different places in China. These festivals honor Qu Yuan and show how much the people loved him back.

For poem recommendations, click here!


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