The Legend of the Dragon Boat Festival
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The Legend of the Dragon Boat Festival

Once upon a time, in ancient China, there lived a wise and beloved poet named Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan served as a minister in the state of Chu during the Warring States period. He was known for his loyalty, wisdom, and profound love for his country. However, not everyone in the royal court shared his noble vision, and jealous rivals conspired against him, leading to his unjust exile.


Qu Yuan wandered the countryside, heartbroken and despairing over the state of his beloved homeland. During his exile, he wrote many beautiful poems expressing his sorrow and patriotism. Despite his efforts to warn his countrymen of impending danger, his words went unheeded.


One fateful day, Qu Yuan heard the devastating news that the state of Chu had been invaded by a rival state. Overcome with grief and feeling utterly helpless, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Miluo River, choosing to end his life rather than see his country fall.


When the villagers learned of Qu Yuan’s tragic fate, they rushed to the river in their boats, desperately trying to save him. They beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles to scare away fish and evil spirits, hoping to protect his body. They also threw rice dumplings, called zongzi, into the river to prevent the fish from eating Qu Yuan’s remains.



Although their efforts could not save Qu Yuan, the villagers’ acts of respect and mourning gave birth to a new tradition. Every year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, people would commemorate Qu Yuan’s sacrifice by holding dragon boat races, eating rice dumplings, and performing rituals to ward off evil spirits.


The Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Festival, became a time to celebrate the spirit of loyalty, bravery, and the enduring love for one’s country. Dragon boat races, with their brightly painted boats and rhythmic paddling, symbolize the villagers’ frantic attempts to save Qu Yuan. The rice dumplings, wrapped in bamboo leaves and filled with sticky rice and various fillings, are a delicious reminder of the offerings made to protect his soul.




Today, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated not only in China but also in many parts of the world. It is a vibrant and joyous occasion where communities come together to honour an ancient hero, celebrate their cultural heritage, and enjoy the thrill of the dragon boat races.



And so, the legend of Qu Yuan and the Dragon Boat Festival continues to inspire and unite people, reminding us of the values of loyalty, sacrifice, and the enduring power of love for one’s homeland.


Chinese Folktales are more than just stories; they are a treasure trove of cultural heritage, brimming with timeless wisdom, and moral lessons that have been passed down through generations. These tales offer a fascinating glimpse into the rich tapestry of culture, reflecting its values, beliefs, and traditions.

Click HERE for our collection of Chinese Folktales and discover the magic and lessons they hold.


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