At the Duanwu, or Dragon Boat, Festival, competing teams drive their colourful dragon boats forward to the rhythm of beating drums. Arrange your own Chinese-style Dragon Boat Festival by the lake or sea. Make the traditional zongzis, which are large rice wraps, drink realgar wine, and race dragon boats. OK, not everyone has a dragon boat in their possession, but what about a rowboat? Picnics and festivities on the beaches, as well as the excitement of the races, make this a day not to be missed.… The Duanwu Festival occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar, which is also referred to as Double Fifth. The festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC - 278 BC). Qu served in high offices in the state of Chu but when the king decided to ally with the state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin conquered the Chu capital and in despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth month. It is said that the local people threw food into the river so that the fish would not eat Qu Yuan's body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi. They were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body and this is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing→
Realgar wine is a very popular drink at a Dragon Boat Festival. It is a kind of Chinese liquor seasoned with realgar, which is said to function as a detoxification and ant-bacterial agent. In the old days, people believed it protected against evil and disease for the rest of the year. For centuries, Chinese people have used wine in sacrificial offerings and to show veneration for their ancestors and folk gods. Today, wine remains popular in traditional rituals as well as during social gatherings. We recommend Chinese wine and a selection of Chinese green teas.
A selection of Chinese green teas
Chinese music builds on a rich traditional heritage as it emerges into more contemporary forms. We have selected a playlist based on traditional and festive music. One of the most famous musicians of China, Ming Ke, plays one of the principal traditional Chinese musical instruments, the "pi pa."
Since this is an outdoor event, the dress code is casual. If you are arranging a boat race, sportswear is appropriate. If you want to focus more on the Chinese theme, encourage your guests to embroider the Five Poisons Charm (see more under Activities) on their clothes or to wear clothes with prints of dragons. Dragons are traditionally believed to be the rulers of rivers and seas and dominate the clouds and the rains of heaven. Another popular tradition is to wear perfumed medicine bags to chase away illness and evil spirits.
Since this is a Dragon Boat Festival, it goes without saying that you need to arrange a boat race. Today, dragon boat racing is among the fastest-growing team water sports, with tens of thousands of participants in over 60 countries. The sport is recognized for the camaraderie and has also become very popular at corporate and charitable events. The standard crew of a dragon boat is around 22, comprising 20 paddlers in pairs, 1 drummer facing the paddlers and 1 steerer at the rear of the boat. The drummer is considered the heartbeat of the dragon boat and leads the crew with the beating of a drum in order to coordinate the timing of the paddling strokes. Since not everyone has a dragon boat, an alternative is to arrange a rowing competition in ordinary boats. The rules are simple: whoever rows his or her boat the fastest around a prepared course wins. Other popular activities at a Dragon Boat Festival are river parades, martial arts demonstrations, street theatre, taking long walks by the river and setting off firecrackers.
The favourite decoration of this festival is the Five Poison Charm. According to Chinese custom, the "double fifth" is the hottest day of the month, when the air is full of poisonous vapours. Therefore, it is important to harmonize yin and yang to avoid danger and disease. The Five Poison Charm is made up of a snake, centipede, scorpion, lizard, toad and sometimes spider. It was thought that the strength of the four poisons would eliminate the poison of one, so the Five Poison Charms is embroidered on clothes and used for other decorations. The decorations of the dragon boats are a very important part of the festivities. The wooden, canoe-shaped boats are brightly coloured and decorated to resemble dragons, with a head at the bow and a tail at the stern. In northern China, boats are painted to represent the five elements; blue for wood, red for fire, yellow for earth, white for metal, and black for water. Regardless of whether you are arranging a dragon boat race or not, let yourself be inspired by the decorations and colours used for the dragon boats and also the Five Poison Charms. They look great and make a good story to tell your guests!