Dragon Boat Festival 2023
In 2023, the Dragon Boat Festival takes place Thursday, June 22 in China. Chinese people will have a 3-day holiday from June 22nd to 24th
Dragon Boat Festival or Duan Wu Jie, is one of the three most important lunar festivals in China, along with Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival is celebrated to commemorate Qu Yuan, a famous scholar in ancient China.
- Meaning: In honor of Qu Yuan, an ancient poet who drowned himself in a river.
- Date and Time: 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar
- Main activities: Dragon boat races, Rice dumplings (Zongzi), Fragrant herbs, Fragrant Sachets
- Origins: Over 2,000 years of history
- UNESCO Heritage: Listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009
- Global Celebration: Celebrated widely in China and countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and communities with overseas Chinese residents.
- Why the Festival is Celebrated
- Practices and Activities
- Origin of The Dragon Boat Festival
- Public Holidays
- The Names of the Festival
- Dragon Boat Festival around the World
- Dragon Boat Festival Wishes
- Top Places to See Dragon Boat Festival in China
Why the Chinese People Celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival
It is widely believed the Dragon Boat Festival is to honor Qu Yuan, an ancient Chinese poet, who drowned himself in protest against his king's wrongdoings. Quyuan was later honored as a national hero.
But, actually, the Dragon Boat Festival is more than just the commemoration of Qu Yuan. In fact, Chinese people predominantly view it as an essential occasion to ward off evil, and disease, and ensure safety throughout the year.
The Chinese believe the fifth month is the most poisonous and unlucky month of the year, particularly the fifth day. During this time, poisonous creatures are active, and it's easier for people to get sick.
Seen as an important time to prevent disease and drive away evil spirits, the Dragon Boat Festival is still celebrated today for these reasons. People maintain customs such as hanging medicinal herbs, hoping to stay healthy throughout the year and keep diseases away.
Practices and Activities
The Dragon Boat Festival has a long history of more than 2,000 years. During this long period of time, various traditions have developed.
1. Dragon Boat Racing
Dragon boat racing is one of the most important traditions at the Dragon Boat Festival. The activity is widely held in China's southern and southeastern areas where rivers and lakes are densely scattered.
The dragon boat is a human-powered watercraft that is shaped and decorated like a Chinese dragon. There are usually 18 to 20 people in a standard boat for races. During the races, members of the boat paddle harmoniously and hurriedly, accompanied by drum beats produced by the drummer.
The origin of dragon boat racing dates back 2,000 years. Legend has it that when Qu Yuan drowned in the river, many fishermen sailed their boats trying to find his body. Since then, every year, locals participate in dragon boat racing to honor Qu Yuan.
2. Eating Zongzi
Eating zongzi has become an indispensable part of the Dragon Boat Festival celebration. In China, almost every household will eat Zongzi when the festival comes.
Zongzi is a glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in reed leaves, with various fillings. Depending on the location and region of China, the taste of Zongzi is different. Generally speaking, people in southern China prefer the salty one while those in northern China like the sweet one.
An interesting story explains the tradition of eating zongzi during the festival. It is said that after Qu Yuan drowned in the river, fishermen tried hard to find his body but failed. Some locals threw rice rolls, eggs, and meat into the river, hoping that the fish would not eat Qu Yuan's body. Since then, zongzi became the official food of the festival and has continued to be enjoyed to this day.
Today, Zongzi is also a very popular local snack in China.
3. Drinking Realgar Wine
Realgar wine is a white or yellow wine mixed with realgar powder. In ancient times, drinking realgar wine during the Dragon Boat Festival was highly popular in the Yangtze River basin. An old saying goes, "After drinking realgar wine, all diseases will be driven away."
4. Wearing Sachets
During Dragon Boat Festival, usually, kids would wear sachets (佩香囊) in the countryside areas. It is believed that doing so helps drive out the evil spirit and avoid illness. At the same time, people think that kids with sachets look more adorable.
Inside the sachets are some perfumes or herbal medicines like aromatic odor, angelica root, and the rhizome of chuanxiong. The shapes of sachets vary and they are strung together.
In some cities in southern China, some young people will also use sachets to express their affection for each other.
5. Hanging Mugwort
Hanging mugwort is believed to protect against evil and prevent diseases during the Dragon Boat Festival.
Mugwort is an essential medicinal plant used for making moxa, treating diseases, acupuncture, and repelling insects. In May, when it's in its peak growth period, mugwort contains the highest amount of essential oil, providing the best effects. People eagerly gather mugwort and typically hang a few sprigs on their front doors. Thanks to its unique fragrance, mugwort helps prevent diseases, repel mosquitoes, and ward off evil spirits.
5. Herbal Bath
Taking a herbal bath during the Dragon Boat Festival is believed to eliminate evil spirits and treat various diseases. The Chinese believe that the medicinal properties of plants are strongest on this day of the year.
In Guangdong province, located in southern China, people prepare an herbal bath by boiling mugwort, sweet flag, bauhinia, and magnolia flowers. This fragrant mixture is especially used as a bath for children.
6. Five-colored Silk Thread
In certain regions of China, people, particularly children, wear the five-colored silk threads during the Dragon Boat Festival. This tradition is thought to ward off evil and protect against misfortunes.
The silk threads, with the colors red, green, blue, yellow, and white, are twisted together to form ropes. These vibrant ropes are then wrapped around children's wrists or necks.
The colorful threads are typically worn from the day of the Dragon Boat Festival until the Qixi Festival, which celebrates the birthday of the "Seventh Mother." The threads are then removed and burned. Alternatively, some people believe that the threads should be cut off and cast into the rain on the first rainy day following the festival. This act symbolizes the washing away of epidemics and diseases by the cleansing power of river water.
The Origin of The Dragon Boat Festival
Dragon Boat Festival can be traced back 2,000 years ago. There’re many legends about the origin of the festival. The most popular ones are related to Quyuan and the poisonous fifth month.
Qu Yuan was an important minister during the Spring and Autumn Periods in the Chu State ( in today’s Hubei Province in Central China). During his life, he strongly advocated recommending talents from all social levels, enriching the country, and building up the military forces.
However, aristocrats heavily opposed his proposals, as they threatened their privileges. As a result, Qu Yuan was forced to resign and was exiled to a remote region. While in exile, he wrote many famous poems expressing his love for his country.
In 278 BC, the Chu State's capital was captured by the Qin army. Qu Yuan, deeply saddened by this news, committed suicide by jumping into the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
Locals, who respected this great poet and official, were heartbroken by his death. They raced their boats along the river to search for his body and threw rice wrapped in bamboo leaves to feed the fish so they wouldn't eat Qu Yuan's body.
These customs continue, and every year on this day, people spontaneously commemorate Qu Yuan.
To Drive Off the Evil and Disease
The Chinese believe the fifth month is the most poisonous and unlucky month of the year, and the fifth day of the month is particularly so.
On that day, the sun is in the most upright position, causing the Yang energy to peak. Many large creatures, such as snakes, centipedes, scorpions, lizards, and toads, are believed to be most active from this day on. People are supposed to get sick easily this month.
Thus, the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (the Dragon Boat Festival) is considered the most unlucky day of the year. To ward off evil and disease, people hang strongly scented herbal plants like Calamus and Chinese Mugwort on their doors, sprinkle realgar wine on walls, doors, and windows, and drink mugwort wine.
In ancient times, children would wear a special pouch called the "Five Poisons Pouch" on this day. It featured images of five poisonous animals (snake, scorpion, centipede, gecko, and toad), symbolizing protection and good health by using poison to fight off the poison.
People would hang pictures of the Five Poisons in their homes. They printed images of the poisonous creatures on red paper. These images were then pierced with five needles. This symbolized the creatures' deaths, preventing them from causing harm.
The Dragon Boat Festival is an official public holiday in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
In the Chinese mainland, people enjoy a 3-day break for the festival. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, it's a one-day holiday.
The festival is also celebrated as an unofficial event in other East Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia.
The Names of the Festival
In English, the festival is called Dragon Boat Festival, while in the mainland of china, the festival is called: Duanwu (端午 duānwǔ) and Longzhou jie (龙舟节 Lóng zhōu jié）.
- Duanwu: means the start of the summer season, as the festival takes place around the Summer solstice.
- Longzhou jie: Long zhou means Dragon Boats. As Dragon Boat race is one of the most important activities of the festival, hence the name.
The Festival is called Tuen Ng Festival in Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia and Singapore.
Dragon Boat Festival around the World
Dragon Boat Festival is a public holiday in China, but it is also celebrated in other countries, like Singapore, Malaysia, and communities throughout the world where the overseas Chinese reside..
Dragon Boat Festival 2023 in the Chinese mainland
It is a traditional festival and a public holiday in the mainland of China.
Dragon Boat Festival 2023 in Hong Kong
Dragon Boat Festival is a public holiday in Hong Kong. In 2023, Tuen Ng Festival falls on June 22 (Thursday). It is a day off for the general population.
There will be dragon boat races at Waterfront Podium Garden, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon from 24-25 June 2023 (Saturday to Sunday)
Dragon Boat Festival in Malaysia
In Malaysia, the festival is called Tuen Ng Festival. It is celebrated by the Chinese community. In 2023, the Penang International Dragon Boat Festival will take place on 2 & 3 December 2023 at the Teluk Bahang Dam in Penang, Malaysia.
Dragon Boat Festival in Singapore
In Singapore, there are grand dragon boat races at various waterfront venues, including the Kallang River or Marina Bay, each year to celebrate the festival.
In 2023, the dragon boat race will take place at Bedok Reservoir on June 24 to 25.
Dragon Boat Festival in Denver Colorado, USA
The Dragon Boat Festival in Denver is an annual event, which is the largest of its kind in the USA. In 2023, it falls on July 22 to 23, 2023 at Sloan's Lake Park. Except for the Dragon Boat Race, the festival offers a unique opportunity for residents and visitors to experience Asian and Pacific traditions and connect with diverse communities in Denver.
Happy Dragon Boat Festival Greetings
As the festival is celebrated to commemorate the death of an ancient Chinese scholar, it is not proper to say "Happy Dragon Boat Festival to others.
Instead, you might greet each other with the phrase： Wish you peace and health on the Dragon Boat Festival （祝您端午安康 zhù nín Duān wǔ ān kāng）. Read more Popular Dragon Boat Festival wishes
Top Cities to Watch Dragon Boat Race in China
Every year when Dragon Boat Festival comes, in many Chinese cities there will be dragon boat racing. The top places to watch the Dragon Boat race are Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Foshan, and Yueyang.
Xixi Wetland Park is the most famous place to celebrate Dragon Boat Festival in Hangzhou City. During the festival, visitors can take part in most activities, including watching dragon boat racing matches, tasting traditional festival food, etc.
- Opening Hours: 07:00-17:30 from April 1 to October 31 and 08:30-17:00 for the rest time.
- Getting there: Take bus 310 to Zhoujiacun Station or take Y13/sightseeing bus 1 to Xixi Wetland Park.
2. Hong Kong
If you live in Hong Kong or just stop over there for several days in June, you may go to Victory Harbor to enjoy Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival. It is a significant international Dragon Boat Festival. The entrance fee is free.
Getting there: Take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station (Exit G) and walk east for about 15 minutes. Or take MTR to East Tsim Sha Tsui Station (Exit P1).
Every year the Foshan City of the Guangdong Province will hold different kinds of activities to celebrate Dragon Boat Festival in different districts. Of these districts, Shunde holds the grandest one.
Besides traditional dragon dancing and the large competition of dragon boat racing on Lake Guipan, there are more interactive activities to help to celebrate the festival.
Miluo River in Yueyang is a famous river since Qu Yuan committed suicide in it 2,000 years ago. Thus it is also the birthplace of the Dragon Boat Racing Match and eating zongzi during the festival, which serves as a good spot to enjoy the Dragon Boat Festival during the period.