The festival was long marked as a cultural festival in China and is a public holiday in the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. 

It is unofficially observed by the Chinese communities of Southeast Asia, including Singapore and Malaysia. Equivalent and related official festivals include the Korean Dano, Japanese Children’s Day, and Vietnamese Tết Đoan Ngọ.

The Duanwu Festival, also often known as the Dragon Boat Festival, is a traditional holiday originating in China, occurring near the summer solstice. It is also known as Zhongxiao Festival (Chinese: 忠孝節; pinyin: Zhōngxiàojié), commemorating fealty and filial piety. The festival now occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese calendar, which is the source of the festival’s alternative name, the Double Fifth Festival.

The usual English name for the holiday, “Dragon Boat Festival“, possibly translates into two alternative Chinese names for the holiday, 龍船節 (Lóngchuánjié) and 龍舟節 (Lóngzhōujié).

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) 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 king 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.

Watch video:

Dragon Boat Festival race day in Hong Kong


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Published: 7th June 2019.

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Hong Kong type Zongzi are white color, served separately with soy sauce

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Malaysian type are dark color.

The Origins of Dragon Boat Festival and Zongzi