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    The Dragon Boat Festival


    The Dragon Boat Festival is traditionally celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar, and is therefore often called 'Double Fifth Festival'. In Chinese, the holiday is called Duan Wu Jie. The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar-statesman Qu Yuan, who lived some three centuries before the birth of Christ. Qu Yuan was a loyal minister that served the King of Chu during the Warring States Period. Qu Yuan was a highly respected and trusted advisor to the King of Chu. He fought the corruption of other officials of the court.

    Initially, Qu Yuan was favored by his sovereign, but over time, his wisdom and erudite ways antagonized the other court officials. Eventually, the intrigues of his rivals exerted enough ill influence on the King that Qu Yuan soon found himself in disfavor. The King began to not listen to Qu Yuan's suggestions and advice. Not long after, the King banished Qu Yuan from Chu. While in exile, Qu Yuan composed many poems expressing his sorrows and concerns for his country and people.
    Amongst his most famous poems is "Encountering Sorrow," a poem describing his search for a good sovereign that would listen to good advice regarding government. In the year 295 B.C., at the age of 37, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Milo River. He clasped a heavy stone to his chest and leaped into the water. Knowing that Qu Yuan was a righteous man, the people of Chu rushed to the river to try to save him. The people desperately searched the waters in their boats looking for Qu Yuan, but they were unsuccessful in their attempt to rescue him. Every year the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to commemorate this attempt at rescuing Qu Yuan.

    When it was known that Qu Yuan had been lost forever, the local people began the tradition of throwing sacrificial cooked rice into the river for their lost hero. However, a local fisherman had a dream that Qu Yuan did not get any of the cooked rice that was thrown into the river in his honor. Instead, it was the fishes in the river that had eaten the rice. So, the following year, the tradition of wrapping the cooked rice in bamboo leaves was begun. The cooked rice wrapped in bamboo leaves later came to be known as zong zi.


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