Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday which occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar.
The English language name for the holiday is Dragon Boat Festival, used as the official English translation of the holiday by the People's Republic of China. It is also referred to in some English sources as Double Fifth Festival which alludes to the date as in the original Chinese name.
The story best known in modern China holds that the festival commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou dynasty. A cadet member of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the emperor decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry. Twenty-eight years later, Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.
It is said that the local people, who admired him, raced out in their boats to save him, or at least retrieve his body. This is said to have been the origin of dragon boat races. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan's body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi.
During World War II, Qu Yuan began to be treated in a nationalist way as "China's first patriotic poet". The view of Qu's social idealism and unbending patriotism became canonical under the People's Republic of China after 1949 Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War.
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