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UPDATED: 09:23, June 22, 2004
Dragon Boat Festival activities expanded
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The Dragon Boat Festival should get extra attention this year, according to Tuesday's China Daily.

In addition to the popular tradition of dragon boat races, a variety of activities are planned across the country to celebrate today's festival.

More than 100 noted poets gathered in Beijing for a three-day seminar which ends today. They studied the poems of Qu Yuan -- the patriot poet in the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) from when the festival originates -- and also composed their own verses in memory of the late hero.

The Chinese capital will host a park carnival and a seminar as well, both focusing on folk customs during the festival.

"I am excited about the upcoming carnival, because I used to celebrate the day by simply eating a couple of Zongzi (a pyramid-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves)," said Lu Ying, a thirty-something Beijinger.

In Qu Yuan's hometown, Zigui County of Central China's Hubei Province, the first national dragon boat cultural festival will be held between June 25 to July 2.

Zheng Jiayu, a publicity official with the Zigui county government, said the festival would feature a traditional dancing contest, a poem writing competition and a series of traditional sacrificial activities in commemoration of Qu Yuan.

The traditional festival has even won favour from websites this year.

Online services are available this year for people to remember Qu Yuan. People can read about his story, study his poems and send virtual Zong Zi to him at, a special website devoted to Qu Yuan.

"The variety in celebrations on the festival is probably connected with the increasing awareness among the public about preserving traditional culture," said Lu Ying.

Earlier this year, Chinese experts appealed to set the traditional festival as legal holiday.

"China should pay more heed to the preservation of traditional culture, and we should start with the young people," Wu Bing'an, vice-chairman of the Chinese Folklore Society, told Xinhua News Agency.

Wu said the preservation work should try to maintain its original flavour "because that's where its true value lies."

The Dragon Boat Festival is said to be one of the three major Chinese traditional festivals, in addition to the Spring Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Also called "Duanyang," "Double 5th" or "Duan Wu," it falls on May 5th of the Chinese lunar calendar.

According to Zhang Zhongyi, an archaeologist and Qu Yuan researcher, the festival originated from ancient agriculture in China.

There was a great deal of rainfall in May, which ruined crop seedlings, so farmers cast rice and wine to worship the God of Rivers so he would bring them a harvest, Zhang said.

However, the origins of today's festival are more often connected to the great patriotic and literary figure Qu Yuan.

During the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), Qu Yuan, a poet of the state of Chu, was removed from office and sent into exile by the duke of Chu. In sorrow, Qu picked up a heavy stone and drowned himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

The local folk did what they could to search for him and dropped dumplings of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves into the river in order to prevent the fishes from eating Qu Yuan's body.

Since then, it has been customary on this day to eat Zongzi as a memorial to the patriotic poet.

Dragon boats are long, thin, canoe-like boats often sporting the head of a dragon on the prow.

It is also traditional for people to clean their houses on this day.

People put up leaves of mugwort or cattail on either side of the door, spray realgar water, and drink realgar liquor, in order to prevent rot and kill bacteria to stop the spread of diseases.

Source: China Daily

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