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Legends of Dragon Boat Festival


15:22, June 18, 2012

Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most ancient festivals, not only in China but also throughout the world, with a history of more than 2000 years. Almost every Chinese know somestories about Dragon Boat Festival, which shows that this traditional festival had firmly rooted in people’s mind.There are numerous versions of the festival’s origin, among which three legends are the most widely circulated.

Legend No.1: Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in memory of Qu Yuan, a famous patriotic poet.

This is the best known legend in China. According to history record, Qu Yuan(屈原) was an official of the Chu State. Being the most talented poet of his time, Qu Yuan left us "Lisao, Suffering Throes" ,the most beautiful poem of all time. He dedicated his whole life in helping the king to build his motherland stronger, but the king believed in slanders and punish Qu Yuan severely. On 278 BC, the Chu State was invaded by another state, which was excruiciating to Qu Yuan. Though heartbroken to see his country being intruded, Qu Yuan never abandoned his faith and country. On May 5th(in Chinese lunar calendar), after writing down his last poem, Qu Yuan drowned himself in Miluo River(a branch of Yangtze River) as a gesture of dying along with his motherland. After his tragic death, the Chu State was shadowed with grief. The fishmen rowed along the river to find his body, while one of them took out some cooked rice ball, throwing them into the water. He explained that as long as the fish were fed, they would not bite Mr. Qu's body. People in the area all followed this example. Gradually rowing develped into dragon boat racing and rice balls became tzung tzu(or zongzi,glutinous rice wrapped in a pyramid shape using bamboo or reed leaves) and passed down from generation to generation as a Chinese tradition.

Legend No.2: Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in memory of Wu Zixu.

In Jiangsu and Zhejiang, this legend is quite popular. Wu Zixu(伍子胥), just like Qu Yuan, was from the Chu State 2000 years ago. His father was once the royal tutor but the king misled the king, misled by false reports of rebellion plots, ordered the execution of him and Wu Zixu's older brother. Struck by sorrow, Wu later moved to another rising state----Wu(吴国)to help them conquer Chu State for revenge. His assistance laid the cornerstone of the accomplishment achived by Wu State, yet again he was entrapped by bad guys then forced to commit suicide on May, 5th. He died with sorrow and anguish, and the locals sympathize with him. A series of activities were held to commemorate this tragic figure.

Legend No.3: Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in memory of a filial dutiful daughter----Cao E

According to legend, Cao E, from Zhejiang, lived in Eastern Han Dynasty(23-220 A.D.). Her father drowned in the river and his body could not be found for days, while Cao E was only 14 years old, she was so connected with her father. She believed that it was her duty to find his body and give him a decent funeral. She walked along the bank day and night, seeking and crying her heart out. 17 days later, on May 5 th, she jumped into the water too and miraculously came back to life with her father's body in her arms. People all said that the heaven was moved by her filial affection. To salute her, people built up temples for her, and celebrated Dragon Boat Festival ever after.

You may find these stories ridiculous or too legendary to be true. Well it doesn't matter whether the stories were true or not, what really matter are the traditions that Chinese people have been honored for 2000 centuries and the merits----patriotism, courage and love treasured by the nation. The influence of Dragon Boat Festival radiates the neighboring countries. As a cultural tresure shared by all people, Dragon Boat Festival still sparkles with charm, and its stories, has been and will always be told to the younger generations.


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