Duanwu Festival(端午節) also known as Chinese Dumpling Festival. Duanwu Festival is traditionally celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar.This year, it is officially celebrated on June 16, 2010.
Duanwu commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan, he was a loyal minister that served the King of Chu during the Warring States Period in 3 centuries BC. Initially, his sovereign favored Qu Yuan, but over time, his wisdom and erudite ways antagonized the other court officials. And then he was Trumped up a charge of conspiracy, and ejected by his sovereign. During the exile, Qu Yuan made many poems to express his anger and sorrow of his sovereign and people.
In the year 278 B.C., at the age of 37, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Milo River. He clasped a heavy stone to his chest and leaped into the water. Knowing that Qu Yuan was a righteous man, the people of Chu rushed to the river to try to save him. The people desperately searched the waters in their boats looking for Qu Yuan, but they were unsuccessful in their attempt to rescue him. Every year the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to commemorate this attempt at rescuing Qu Yuan.
When it was known that Qu Yuan had been lost forever, the local people began the tradition of throwing sacrificial cooked rice into the river for their lost hero. However, a local fisherman had a dream that Qu Yuan did not get any of the cooked rice that was thrown into the river in his honor. Instead, it was the fish in the river that had eaten the rice. And so, the locals decided to make zongzi to sink into the river in the hopes that it would reach Qu Yuan’s body. The following year, the tradition of wrapping the rice in bamboo leaves to make zongzi began.
There is also another version of the story. When it was known that Qu Yuan had been lost to the river, the local fisherman had a dream that the fish in the river were eating Qu Yuan’s body. The local people came up with the idea that if the fish in the river were not hungry, then they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body. People thus began throwing zongzi into the river to feed the fish in hope that Qu Yuan’s body would be spared.
Three of the most widespread activities for Duanwu Festival are eating (and preparing) zongzi, drinking realgar wine, and racing dragon boats.
Other common activities include hanging up icons of Zhong Kui (a mythic guardian figure), hanging mugwort and calamus, taking long walks, and wearing perfumed medicine bags. Other traditional activities include a game of making an egg stand at noon, and writing spells. All of these activities, together with the drinking of realgar wine, were regarded by the ancients as effective in preventing disease or evil and promoting health and well-being.
In the early years of the Republic of China period, Duanwu was also celebrated as “Poets’ Day,” due to Qu Yuan’s status as China’s first poet of well renown. zongzi are no longer thrown into rivers, but people still eat them as a holiday tradition and testament to Qu Yuan’s self-determination.