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