The Poet Qu Yuan Dragon Boat Festival

According to the Chinese traditional calendar, Duanwu, known in English as the Dragon Boat Festival, takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of each year.

Legend has it that the festival commemorates the life and especially the death of Qu Yuan (c. 340-278 B.C.), the first great poet in Chinese history. He lived during the Warring States period (a time when China was divided into several warring kingdoms) and was a high-ranking official in the state of Chu. At that time his homeland was under siege by another powerful state called Qin. The King of Chu did not recognize Qu Yuan's correct stand or appreciate his suggestions for saving their country. What is more, treacherous officials slandered him, and at last he was sent into exile. On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, when he heard news that the capital of Chu had fallen into enemy hands, he threw himself into the Miluo River (in present-day Hunan province) and drowned.

What is the connection between Qu Yuan and dragon boats? The people loved Qu Yuan, a great patriot. When villagers heard he had thrown himself into the river, they rushed in their boats to try to save him, but they were too late. Dragon boat races commemorate their rescue attempt. Along the riverbanks hundreds of people, both locals and tourists, wait for the races to begin. The boats themselves are long and narrow, with a colorful dragon's head high up on the bow. Each one holds at least fourteen people, all dressed in gorgeous ancient costumes. The man standing at the front of the boat with a small flag in his hand is the captain; the one standing at the back is the drummer, who beats a big drum to mark the rhythm for the oarsmen to follow. With the bang of the starting gun the dragon boats rush forward like flying arrows, amid the loud banging of drums and shouts from the onlookers. It's an unforgettable scene.

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The Poet Qu Yuan