Dragon boat festival – 端午节 – duān wǔ jié, is among the important traditional festivals in China. It is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. Chinese people have been celebrating this festival over 2000 years, to commemorate Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), the first Chinese poet. The celebration is a time for protection from evil and diseases for the rest of the year.
During this special day, in some regions, there will be Dragon boat races. The boats are in form of a Dragon, and each team rows their boat forward, accompanied by a drumbeat. Don’t forget to eat rice dumplings (粽子 zòng zi) drink realgar wine (雄黄酒 xióng huáng jiǔ).
“Making an egg stand at noon were regarded by the ancients as an effective way of preventing disease, evil, while promoting good health and well-being.”
Read about some famous regional customs in different provinces and cities:
In Beijing people eat cherries and mulberries on this day in order to prevent the unconscious consumption of flies during the year to come. All food stores sell a cake called “Five-Poison-Cake”, a rose pie with images of the five most poisonous creatures – Scorpion, Frog, Spider, Centipede and Snake) on it.
In the county of Zhouping, Shandong Province, local people ought to drink a cup of wine after awakening as a sort of exorcism practice.
In another County in Shaanxi, Tongguan County, calamus, wormwood and paper cattle are pasted on the doors in order to prevent diseases from entering in the house.
People from Jingningzhou city, in Gansu Province pick roses and use their nectar to make maltose.
Up until 1985 people in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, went to the Southeast Gate Tower and would sit on the different levels, throwing plums at each other. A lot of people were attracted by this tradition which was then abandoned because it created a conflict between the local people and foreign priests.
In Wujin County, Jiangsu Province, dragon boat races are held during the night. The boats are decorated with small lanterns hanging from the four corners of each boat. The races are accompanied by the sound of xiao (/sshyaoww/ a Chinese bamboo flute) and drums, together with the singing of people.
Parents-in-law are given grave clothes, shoes and socks, rice dumplings as well as fans to from their daughters-in-law in Fuzhou City, Fujian Province.
In Conghua County, Guangdong Province, Chinese wash their eyes and faces with water mixed with burnt magic paper. That water is thrown into the streets later as a symbol of getting rid of disasters.
People from Jinachangfu City, Jiangxi Province, bathe in special water which is made from one hundred different herbs in order to prevent scabies.
In Bahe Town, Hubei Province, Chinese dress up like ancient Chinese farmers, wear flowers on their heads and beat gongs. This is also a customs to drive out diseases.
Families with pregnant women in You County, Hunan Province, depending on how money they have, make sacrifices for the baby to be safely born. Rich families drop auspicious coins (which are expensive) into wine. The wine is then placed on the head of a dragon boat. Poorer families on the other hand, prepare chicken and wine and sacrifice paper money.
Hainan Province, holds dragon boat races in almost all places. In Ding’an Town, a well preserved old town, two long, gaily colored dragon boats stand on the stone steps inside the door that opens to this five-hundred-year-old town.
The most popular activity in Taiwan is the same as in Mainland China: holding dragon boat races. They are held on each major river. Common people also hang calamus, wormwood and a picture of Zhong Kui (a Chinese immortal who is able to bless and protect mortal’s houses) in front of their houses.
Because businessmen try to find more and more creative ways to sell more dumplings, a huge variety of different dumplings – made of rice or gluten rice – exist in Taiwan.