The 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar year is an important day for the Chinese people. The day is called Duan Wu Festival, or Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated everywhere in China. This festival dates back to about 2,000 years ago with a number of legends explaining its origin. The best-known story centers on a great patriotic poet named Qu Yuan.
The customs vary a lot in different areas of the country, but most of the families would hang the picture of Zhong Kui (a ghost that can exorcise), calamus and moxa in their houses. People have Dragon Boat Races, eat Zong Zi (dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves) and carry a spice bag around with them.
Hanging Pictures of Zhong Kui
Zhong Kui is the exorcist par excellence. His picture, a fierce-looking male brandishing a magic sword, used to be hung up in Chinese houses in order to scare away evil spirits and demons, especially in the time of Dragon Boat Festival.
Hanging Calamus and Moxa
On this day, most of the families would also hang calamus and moxa (oriental plants) on the front door. This is also to ward off evil.
Dragon Boat Race
The main event of the festivities is the Dragon Boat Race. These boats are long and thin with dragon heads on the bow of the ships. The boat races are said to represent the search for Qu,s body, with racing boats in a forward rowing motion, to the rhythm of beating drums.
Qu Yuan drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 BC. Since ancient times, Chinese people threw into the water dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves on the day. Therefore the fish would eat the rice rather than the hero poet. This later on turned into the custom of eating Zong Zi.
It is a very popular practice to drink this kind of Chinese liquor seasoned with realgar at the Dragon Boat Festival. This is for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year.
It,s believed that if you carry the small spice bag around with you, it not only drives away evil spirits but also brings fortune and happiness to those who wear it. The small bags are hand-made by local craftsmen. They,re made with red, yellow, green and blue silk, fine satin or cotton. Figures of animals, flowers and fruits are often embroidered onto the bags and inside are mixed Chinese herbal medicines.