Dragon Boat Festival


Clare Shen, Journalist/Editor

What is the Dragon Boat Festival? When does it happen? Why is it celebrated? How is it celebrated? You might know the answers to these questions, or you may not. Either way, you are about to find out!


The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional festival that may have originated from dragon worship. The festival is full of traditions and superstitions, as well as a sports event and a day of worship for Qu Yuan. The Dragon Boat Festival has been a traditional holiday in China for a very long time. However in 2008, it was first celebrated as a public holiday in China.


The Festival is based on the lunar calendar, so the time varies every year in the U.S. The date is the 5th day of the 5th month of the chinese lunar calendar. In the year 2021, it’s June 14.


There are many stories about how the festival started. The most famous one is the legend of Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was a poet who was exiled during the Warring States Period in ancient China. When he heard that his beloved home Chu fell to the enemy State of Qin, he was driven to despair and drowned himself on the 5th day of the 5th Chinese lunar month in the Miluo River. The local people tried to save him, but failed. To commemorate Qu Yuan, every 5th day of the 5th lunar month, people celebrated what is now the Dragon Boat Festival.


People do a lot when celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival. Some examples include eating sticky rice dumplings (zongzi), drinking realgar wine, wearing perfume pouches, and of course, dragon boat racing. 


Zongzi is the most traditional Dragon Boat Festival food. It is basically a sticky rice dumpling made of glutinous rice filled with meats, beans, and other fillings. Zongzi is also wrapped in triangle or rectangle shapes with bamboo or reed leaves, then tied with soaked stalks or colorful silky cords. It is related to Qu Yuan’s legend since it says that lumps of rice were thrown in the river to keep fish from eating Qu Yuan’s body.


Dragon boat racing is the most important activity during the festival. The wooden boats are shaped and decorated like a Chinese dragon. The size of the boat varies depending on the region. Generally it is about 20 to 35 meters in length with 30 to 60 people paddling it. During the races, each dragon boat team paddles quickly and in perfect harmony, along with the sound of beating drums. It is said that the winning team will have good luck and a happy life the following year. Dragon boat racing is said to have come from the legend of people paddling out on boats to find Qu Yuan’s body.


Dragon boat racing is held in many places, including Foster City, but will there be a race this year?