Joanna Borrero

Written by Joanna Borrero

Modified & Updated: 19 May 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


The Dragon Boat Festival is a vibrant and exciting event that has been celebrated for centuries in various parts of the world. This unique cultural festival is rooted in ancient Chinese traditions and holds immense significance for Chinese communities around the globe. Known as Duanwu Festival in China, it is marked by lively dragon boat races, delicious sticky rice dumplings, and other fascinating customs and rituals. In this article, we will explore 18 fascinating facts about the Dragon Boat Festival, shedding light on its historical origins, cultural importance, and the various customs and traditions associated with the celebration. From the story behind the festival’s creation to the reasons behind racing dragon boats, we will delve into the diverse aspects of this vibrant event. So, let’s dive into the rich history and cultural tapestry of the Dragon Boat Festival!

Key Takeaways:

  • The Dragon Boat Festival celebrates a famous poet and features thrilling dragon boat races, delicious rice dumplings, and traditional customs to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.
  • This festival preserves Chinese culture, fosters family togetherness, and has gained international recognition through dragon boat races, showcasing teamwork and competitive spirit.
Table of Contents

The Origin of Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. It has a history of over 2,000 years and originates from ancient Chinese folklore and legends.

Significance of Dragon Boat Festival

This festival is celebrated to commemorate the life and death of the famous poet and statesman Qu Yuan, who lived during the Warring States period in ancient China. Qu Yuan is considered as one of China’s greatest poets and is known for his patriotism and loyalty to his country.

Dragon Boat Racing

One of the main highlights of the Dragon Boat Festival is the thrilling dragon boat races. These races involve teams of rowers paddling vigorously in long, narrow boats decorated like dragons, accompanied by the rhythmic beat of drums. The races are not only a thrilling sport but also a way to pay homage to Qu Yuan, who is believed to have drowned himself in the Miluo River.

Leaf-Wrapped Rice Dumplings

A popular tradition during the festival is the consumption of zongzi, which are sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves. These dumplings are filled with various ingredients such as meats, beans, and nuts, and are steamed or boiled for hours to achieve their delicious and savory taste.

Symbolic Significance

The dragon is considered a sacred creature in Chinese culture and symbolizes power, strength, and good luck. The dragon boat races and the inclusion of dragon motifs in the festival’s decorations are meant to bring about good fortune and ward off evil spirits.

Poetry Reading

Another tradition during the Dragon Boat Festival is the reading of Qu Yuan’s poems. People gather to recite his famous works, such as “Li Sao” and “Tian Wen,” to honor his contributions to Chinese literature and his love for his country.

Protective Talismans

During the festival, it is common to see families and individuals wearing colorful silk threads tied around their wrists. These talismans are believed to provide protection from evil spirits and bring about blessings and good fortune.

Hanging Up Herbal Pouches

Herbal pouches, also known as xiong bao or sachets, are filled with medicinal herbs and aromatic substances. They are hung around the house, worn on the body, or placed under pillows to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck and health.

Dragon Boat Festival in Different Regions

While the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated throughout China, different regions have their unique customs and traditions associated with the festival. For example, in southern China, people make and wear colorful silk threads as a form of protection, while in northern China, they hang mugwort leaves on their doors to repel evil spirits.

Interpretation of the Lunar Calendar

The Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, which is considered an unlucky day with lots of bad energy. It is believed that the dragon boat races and other celebrations during the festival help to drive away the negative energy and bring good luck for the rest of the year.

International Recognition

The Dragon Boat Festival has gained international recognition and is celebrated in many countries around the world. Dragon boat races are held in various cities, bringing people from different cultures together to enjoy the unique spectacle and experience the rich Chinese traditions.

Dragon Boats Are Long and Narrow

Dragon boats used in the races are typically long and narrow, measuring approximately 20 to 30 meters in length. They can accommodate a team of rowers and are adorned with decorative dragon heads and tails, which add to the festive atmosphere.

Competitive Spirit

The Dragon Boat Festival not only showcases teamwork and camaraderie but also fosters a sense of healthy competition among participants. Teams train rigorously to improve their skills and speed, aiming to win the races and honor the spirit of the festival.

Traditional Herbal Remedies

During the festival, there is a belief in the power of traditional herbs and herbal remedies. People may consume realgar wine, a homemade herbal concoction, or wear pouches filled with herbs to ward off evil spirits and ensure good health throughout the year.

A Historical Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival has a rich history and is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. It has survived numerous social and political changes over the centuries and continues to be celebrated with great enthusiasm and reverence by millions of people.

Modern Adaptations

In recent years, the Dragon Boat Festival has evolved to include contemporary elements, such as corporate-sponsored dragon boat races, music concerts, and cultural performances. These adaptations have helped to keep the festival relevant and attract a wider audience.

Preservation of Tradition

The celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival plays a crucial role in preserving traditional Chinese customs and passing them on to future generations. It serves as a reminder of the country’s rich cultural heritage and fosters a sense of national identity and pride.

A Time for Family and Togetherness

Above all, the Dragon Boat Festival is a time for families to come together and strengthen their bonds. Family members often gather to make zongzi, watch and cheer for the races, and spend quality time with one another, creating cherished memories that last a lifetime.


The Dragon Boat Festival is a vibrant and culturally significant event that brings together people from all walks of life. With its rich history, thrilling boat races, delicious zongzi, and fascinating traditions, it is an experience that is not to be missed. Whether you are a participant or a spectator, the Dragon Boat Festival offers a unique opportunity to witness the passion and spirit of competitive racing, celebrate Chinese culture, and indulge in mouthwatering delicacies. So mark your calendars for this exciting event and get ready to immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere of the Dragon Boat Festival.


Q: What is the Dragon Boat Festival?

A: The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, is a traditional Chinese holiday that commemorates the life and death of the famous poet and statesman Qu Yuan.

Q: When is the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated?

A: The Dragon Boat Festival is typically celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, which usually falls in June.

Q: What are the main activities during the Dragon Boat Festival?

A: The main activities during the Dragon Boat Festival include dragon boat races, eating zongzi (sticky rice dumplings), and hanging up colorful silk threads.

Q: Why are dragon boat races held during this festival?

A: Dragon boat races are held during the festival to remember the villagers who tried to save Qu Yuan by racing their boats and banging on drums to scare away evil spirits.

Q: What is the significance of eating zongzi?

A: Eating zongzi symbolizes the act of feeding the fish in the river to prevent them from eating Qu Yuan’s body after he died by jumping into the river.

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