Chinese Traditional Dragon Festival

Chinese Traditional Dragon Festival

Nora Zheng
2613 Words/11 Minutes, By Nora Zheng, Updated June 09, 2023

The Dragon Boat Festival - also called Double Fifth Festival, falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. It is one of the most important Chinese festivals. The Dragon Boat Festival, together with the Spring Festival, Ching Ming Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival, is known as the four major traditional festivals in China. The Dragon Boat Festival culture has a wide influence in the world, and some countries and regions in the world also have some interesting activities to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival.

Origin of the Dragon Boat

The Dragon Boat Festival has been celebrated for thousands of years to commemorate Qu Yuan, a great patriotic poet who lived in the state of Chu during the Warring States period (475 B.C. to 221B.C.). He drowned himself in the Miluo River in today's Hunan Province in 278 B.C. on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, hoping his death would encourage the king to revitalize the kingdom. The tradition arose that on the day of his death dragon boat races would be held and people should eat "zongzi" (glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves).

Names and meanings of the Festival

According to statistics, the name of the Dragon Boat Festival is the most commonly used among all traditional festivals in China, with more than 20 names, such as Dragon Boat Festival, Chongwu Festival, Duanyang Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Chongwu Festival, Dangwuxun Festival, and Tianzhong Festival, Summer Festival, Ai Festival, Shang Ri, May Festival, Calamus Festival, Tianyi Festival, Herbal Medicine Festival, Bath Orchid Festival, Midday Festival, Dila Festival, Zhengyang Festival, Dragon Day Festival, Zongzi Festival, Wuhuang Festival, Poet's Day, Duo Wu Festival, Jiezong Festival, Duan etiquette Festival, the fifth day of May, May noon and so on.

The most commonly used of which are the Dragon Boat Festival, May Festival, and the Fifth Day of May.

Name 1: Duanyang Festival

  • Chinese: 端阳节 / duān wǔ jié

The ancients used the celestial stems and earthly branches to record the year, month, day, and time. According to the zodiac calendar, it is calculated in the order of the twelve earthly branches. The fifth month is "the moon", and the day is "Yangchen", so the Dragon Boat Festival is also called "Yangchen" for "Duanyang"

Name 2: Tianzhong Festival

  • Chinese: 天中节 / tiān zhōng jié

Midsummer Dragon Boat Festival Canglong Qisu is located in the middle sky in the south, the most "positive" and most "center". In addition, the Dragon Boat Festival is also called Tianzhong Festival because the position of the sun in the sky is the most central in a year for the areas on the Tropic of Cancer and the south.

Name 3: Chung Wu Festival

  • Chinese: 重午节 / chóng wǔ jié

The ancient stem and branch era method uses the heavenly stems and earthly branches as the carrier, and the era is common to the heavenly stems and earthly branches. The Dragon Boat Festival was originally Wuyue Wuday in the Ganzhi calendar. The first month is Jianyin, and the fifth month is Wuyue. In the Han Dynasty, due to the unification of the north and the south, the calendar changed. In order to facilitate the festival, the imperial court stipulated that the annual Dragon Boat Festival should be changed to the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar.

Date and Holidays of the Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival usually falls on the sixth month of each year. Until 2023, the state stipulates that the holiday is a 3-day holiday; it is usually called a small holiday, and it is also a small peak for domestic tourism. You can take this factor into consideration when traveling to China. If you want to feel the atmosphere and experience the activities of the Dragon Boat Festival, you can come at this time; if you want to avoid this holiday, plan your time well.

Year Date(Holiday) Year Date(Holiday)
2023Jun. 22(22-24) 2029 Jun. 16(16-18)
2024Jun. 10(8-10) 2030 Jun. 5(5-7)
2025Jun. 31(31-Jul. 2) 2031 Jun. 24(24-26)
2026Jun. 19(19-21) 2032 Jun. 12(12-14)
2027 Jun. 9(9-11) 2033 Jun. 1(1-3)
2028 Jun. 27(27-29) 2034 Jun. 20(20-22)

Top 10 Traditional Folk Customs of the Dragon Boat Festival

No. 1: Dragon Boat Races

  • Chinese: 龙舟赛 / lóng zhōu sài
ZongziDragon Boat Race

Competing teams drive their colorful dragon boats forward to the rhythm of beating drums. These exciting races were inspired by people's attempts to rescue Qu Yuan from the Miluo River. This tradition has been handed down for centuries.

No. 2: Wrapping rice dumplings

  • Chinese: 包粽子 / bāo zòng zǐ
ZongziWrapping rice dumplings/Zong Zi

A very popular dish during the Dragon Boat Festival, Zongzi mainly consists of glutinous rice with other ingredients such as meat, peanuts, egg yolk, or other fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves. The tradition of Zongzi is meant to remind us of the fishermen who scattered rice into the water of the Miluo River to appease the river dragons so they would not devour Qu Yuan.

No. 3: Hanging mugwort

  • Chinese: 挂艾草 / guà ài cǎo
ZongziHanging Mugwort

Apart from the legend of Qu Yuan, the Dragon Boat Festival of the fifth lunar month is significant in many places. Many Chinese people consider this time of year to be an especially dangerous time when illness is common, thus extra efforts must be made to protect their families. Families hang "Aicao" (wormwood) on their doors for protection. The drinking of or rubbing with "realgar wine" is also thought to remove poisons from the body.

No. 4: Fly a kite

  • Chinese: 放风筝
ZongziFly a Kite

In cities in southern China, flying kites during the Dragon Boat Festival is also a custom. During the Dragon Boat Festival, children flying kites are called "flying disasters". A kite is a paper kite. It is a toy, with paper or silk pasted on bamboo strips and other skeletons, and the long string tied to it is pulled, and it can be released into the sky by taking advantage of the wind. It belongs to a kind of aircraft that only uses aerodynamic power.

No. 5: Drink cattail wine, realgar and cinnabar wine, and sprinkle with wine

  • Chinese: 饮蒲酒、雄黄、朱砂酒,以酒洒喷
ZongziFly a Kite

Medicinal ingredients include realgar, Zhu Lei, cypress seeds, peach kernels, cattail leaves, mugwort leaves, etc. After soaking in the wine, people dip it in the corners of the walls, doors, windows, and under the bed, etc., and then use the wine to smear children's ears, noses, and navel to drive away poisonous insects. From a health point of view, these activities are still scientifically justified. Adding water and wine to realgar and sprinkling it indoors can disinfect and sterilize it, and drinking cattail is also quite beneficial.

It is said that after Qu Yuan jumped into the Miluo River, people wanted to protect him from being eaten by the Flood Dragon. First, they scattered zongzi and salty eggs into the river. Then an old man brought a bucket of realgar wine and poured it into the river to protect Qu Yuan. Soon afterward the Flood Dragon floated to the surface and people killed it.

There is a famous Chinese legend that is closely connected to the Dragon Boat Festival, Aicao, and realgar wine. Once upon a time, two snake spirits lived on E-Mei Mountain, White Snake, and Green Snake. They magically transformed themselves into beautiful women and went to the West Lake of Hang Zhou. There they met a man named Xu Xian. The White Snake quickly fell in love with Xu Xian and soon they were married. A Buddhist monk, named Fa Hai, warned Xu Xian that his wife was not a real human being and gave him some suggestions. On the day of the Dragon Boat Festival White Snake stayed at home in order to avoid the Aicao hung on the doors of people's houses. Meanwhile, according to Fa Hai's instruction, Xu Xian prepared some realgar wine. The White Snake drank a cup of the wine and was turned back into a huge white snake.

Special food for Dragon Boat Festival in China

No. 1: Zongzi

  • Chinese: 粽子 / zòng zi
ZongziZong Zi

Eating zongzi at the Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional custom in China. There are many shapes and varieties of zongzi. Generally, there are regular triangles, regular squares, pointed triangles, squares, long shapes, and other shapes. Due to the different flavors in different parts of China, there are mainly two kinds sweet and salty.

No. 3: Realgar wine

  • Chinese: 雄黄酒 / xióng huáng jiǔ
ZongziRealgar Wine

The custom of drinking realgar wine at the Dragon Boat Festival was very popular in the Yangtze River Basin in the past. Baijiu or rice wine made from ground realgar. Realgar can be used as an antidote and insecticide. Therefore, ancient people believed that realgar could restrain snakes, scorpions, and other insects.

No. 4: Five Yellows

  • Chinese: 五黄 / wǔ huáng
ZongziFive Yellows

There is a custom of eating "five yellows" during the Dragon Boat Festival in Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Five yellows refer to yellow croaker, cucumber, rice field eel, duck egg yolk, and realgar wine (realgar wine is poisonous, so we usually drink ordinary rice wine instead of realgar wine). There are also other sayings that salted duck eggs can be replaced with soybeans. In the fifth month of the lunar calendar, people in the south of the Yangtze River call it the Five Yellow Moon.

No. 5: Cake making

  • Chinese: 打糕 / dǎ gāo
ZongziCake Making

The Dragon Boat Festival is a grand festival for the Korean people in Yanbian, Jilin Province. The most representative food on this day is the fragrant cake. Dabing is a rice cake made by placing mugwort and glutinous rice in a large wooden trough hewn from a single log and beating it with a long-handled wood. This kind of food has national characteristics and can add a festive atmosphere.

No. 6: Jiandui

  • Chinese: 煎堆 / jiān duī

In the Jinjiang area of ​​Fujian, every family will eat "Jiandui" during the Dragon Boat Festival, which is fried with flour, rice flour or sweet potato flour and other ingredients to make a thick paste. According to legend, in ancient times, it was the rainy season in southern Fujian before the Dragon Boat Festival. After eating "Jiandui" on the Dragon Boat Festival, the rain stopped, and people said that the sky was mended. This kind of eating custom comes from this.

Special food for Dragon Boat Festival in Other Countries

Korea: Wormwood Cake + Cherry Tea + Daigo Soup

In South Korea, the Dragon Boat Festival is used to worship ancestors, pray for a good harvest, and bless the health of the body. During the Dragon Boat Festival, Koreans like to eat wormwood cake and wormwood cake, taste cherry tea, and drink daigo soup.

Japan: Zongzi + Oak Leaf Cake + Calamus Wine

Zongzi was called "Maojuan" in ancient Japan, and it was conical. At first, the japonica rice was steamed and mashed into rice cakes, wrapped in grass leaves, and then boiled in water. Later, it was wrapped with calamus leaves, bamboo leaves, reed leaves, etc., and the production methods gradually diversified.

Singapore: Nyonya Rice Dumplings

Every year during the Dragon Boat Festival, Singaporeans also have the custom of racing dragon boats and eating rice dumplings. Among them, Nyonya Rice Dumpling is a unique Dragon Boat Festival delicacy in Singapore. The unique spice "coriander powder" is served with soy sauce, and the finest lean meat is carefully marinated, then mixed with sweet and refreshing winter melon strips, and finally wrapped in translucent white glutinous rice.

Vietnam: Turmeric Glutinous Rice + Square Rice Dumplings

During the Dragon Boat Festival, the Vietnamese will prepare turmeric glutinous rice to thank their ancestors for bringing them a life of adequate food and clothing for future generations, and pray for their ancestors to bless the weather and the harvest. In addition, the Vietnamese believe that the turmeric in turmeric rice has the effects of avoiding plague, detoxifying and preventing sores.

Difference in each Province in China

There are obvious cultural differences between southern and northern China, eastern and western China, so the way of celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival is not exactly the same in each place.

Jiansu Province

In addition to dragon boat rowing, Su's Dragon Boat Festival customs include zongzi, realgar wine, and five-yellow feast. The festival decorations include pictures of five poisonous poisons, calamus and mugwort leaves, a statue of Zhong Kui, colored thread wrapped around arms, rice dumplings with silk threads, and five-poison clothes. , Tiger shoes, wearing sachets and so on. In Wujin, there is a dragon boat show at night. At night, small lanterns are hung around the dragon boat for a race, accompanied by the sound of flutes, drums and songs. The Dragon Boat Festival in Gaoyou is quite special. There are customs such as tying Baisuozi, pasting five poisons, pasting talismans, releasing yellow smoke, and eating "Twelve Reds". Formed in the network, hanging on the chest.

Shaanxi Province

During the Dragon Boat Festival in Xing'an Prefecture, Shaanxi Province, local officials led their staff to watch the race, which is called "stepping stones". During the Dragon Boat Festival in Xingping County, a small corner millet is sewed with silk and silk, and a small doll is sewed on the bottom, which is called "playing doll". In Tongguan County, Puai and paper cows are pasted on the door during the Dragon Boat Festival, which is called "the town's disease".

Where and how to celebrate an interesting and leisure Chinese Dragon Boat Festival 2023?

Enjoy your Dragon Festival more than a local!

  • Day 1: 21st June, take a train/flight to Guilin, overnight in Guilin.
  • Day 2: 22nd June, enjoy a Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo, check in your hotel, enjoy the festival activities such as Zhongzi Making, etc.
  • Day 3: 23rd June, enjoy a bike and bike to a local market to buy the festival food/mugwort, etc. Ejoy some activities such as haning mugwort, flying a kite, rock climbing, watching boat game, etc.
  • Day 4: 24th June, cave explore, paddle boarding, diving, etc. and daparture in the afternoon.
Nora Zheng

Hi, I’m Nora Zheng, if you like my article, please share it with your friends. Any sugguestions on this article, please contact me. Thanks!

Want to plan a private China tour? CREATE NOW


CHINA OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2019 We researched several companies and studied reviews on Trip Adviser before contacting who did a very China Culture Tour with an initial query. Right from the outset Grace who owns the company was excellent. She emailed detailed with pictures information and a suggested…read more details

Karen from US

Ready to Create a Unique Dream Travel?

Create My Vacation