Dragon Boat Festival Story - Legend of Qu Yuan
What is the legend of the Dragon Boat Festival? There are several different versions and legends about the origin of this festival, among which the legend of Qu Yuan is the most popular. Qu Yuan was a great patriotic poet and politician living in Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC). He was a well-educated nobleman in Chu State with a great talent of literature and politics, but was ignored by the rulers and gave up his life for his motherland perished finally.
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Qu Yuan Carried out Reform in Chu State
What is the story behind the Dragon Boat Festival? Let’s start with the Qu Yuan story. There are seven main states in Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC) in China, and all tried to conquer others to expand their territories. Qu Yuan was then a nobleman and minister of the State of Chu. He was very talented and had many ideas to make his state stronger. Trusted by the ruler, the King Huaiwang of Chu, he put some of his ideas into practice.
Reform Failed and Qu Yuan was In Exile
However, the reform did harm to some nobles’ interests and they framed Qu Yuan, which made the King abolished the reform and alienated Qu Yuan. The ruler Huaiwang of Chu did not hear earnest advices of Qu Yuan any more; on the contrary, he gave Qu Yuan a demotion and put him into exile. From the year of 313 BC to Qu Yuan’s death, he was exiled for several times. In 299 BC, the King Huaiwang of Chu was cheated and got trapped in the State of Qin, and Chu State had been suppressed by Qin State from then on. Later, the situation of Chu State became worse and worse, but Qu Yuan cannot do anything to help. Three years later, the King Huaiwang of Chu died in Qin State. Losing the supporter, Qu Yuan was dismissed from the court thoroughly.
Qu Yuan Threw Himself into Miluo River
In 278 BC, the capital of Chu State was captured by troops of Qin. When Qu Yuan heard about the news in his exile, he realized that his motherland had been damaged. According to the legend of Qu Yuan, Qu Yuan felt so upset and sorrow about his country and his people that on the lunar May fifth he threw himself into the Miluo River and such ended his life.
The Origin of Dragon Boat Festival
Based on story of Qu Yuan, after Qu Yuan jumping into the river, local people paddled boats to drive fishes away and fed the water creatures with Zongzi, so that Qu Yuan's body would not become their dinner. Since then, people commemorate Qu Yuan every year on lunar May fifth by dragon boat racing and eating Zongzi, which is the origin of Dragon Boat Festival and two most important customs of the festival.
This legend of Qu Yuan is the most widely spread Dragon Boat Festival story, having been popular not only in China, but also in neighboring Asian countries.
Origin and History of Dragon Boat Festival