Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the Double Fifth Festival, is a traditional Chinese holiday with more than two thousand years of history. It begins on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Because the fifth month is considered an unlucky time of year, many traditions exist to rid people of misfortune. For example, parents give their children five threads of colored silk to keep bad spirits away during the Festival. Food and drink play important roles in the festivities, especially zongzi, which is sticky rice with filling and wrapped in bamboo leaves, and realgar wine, which is used to fight disease, snakes, and bad spirits. The Dragon Boat Festival is strongly associated with the legend of Qu Yuan, a poet and court official who drowned himself in 278 BCE to protest imperial corruption. Dragon boat racing is said to originate from the villagers who rushed out in boats to rescue Qu Yuan and who thrashed the water with paddles to prevent his body from being eaten by fish.

Questions for Discussion

  • Dragon boats are paddled long boats traditionally made of wood and decorated with dragon heads and tails on each end. If you could decorate a boat for a special festival on the water, what would your design look like?
  • Why are dragons significant in Chinese culture? What do they symbolize?
  • Each year a Dragon Boat Festival takes place on the Potomac River in Washington, DC. Research how Dragon Boat Festival traditions continue today in China, in the United States, or elsewhere around the world.