Dragon boat races were held across China on Saturday 20 June as the country celebrated the annual Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Tuen Ng in Hong Kong. The origin of the festival reaches back over 2,000 years to the death of poet Qu Yuan in 278 BC.

Dragon boat racing in Fuzhou, Fujian. Photo: szbbs.org
Dragon boat racing in Shanghai. Photo: szbbs.org
Dragon boat racing in Wenzhou, Zhejiang. Photo: szbbs.org
Dragon boat racing in Wenzhou, Zhejiang. Photo: szbbs.org

Qu, a scholar-official during China’s Warring States period, is remembered for both his patriotism as well as his poetry. A loyal minister in his native state of Chu, Qu was slandered and sent into exile by his political rivals. When he learned that his homeland had been conquered by the neighbouring Qin state, he waded into the Miluo River in today’s Hunan Province, committing ritual suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the age.

Thereafter, villagers are said to have beat drums and splashed their oars in the water to keep the fish and evil spirits away from his body. This gave birth to the tradition of dragon boat racing, as well as the festival’s traditional treat: sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves, which, according to culinary lore, were also thrown into the Miluo to feed fish who might otherwise have fed on Qu’s body.

Kids in Henan Province eat Zong Zi. Photo: szbbs.org
Young girls in traditional Chinese dresses learn to make bracelets in Shanghai.

The festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar.

Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.