Yangtze River Legends

Legend of Dragon Boat Race and Eating Zongzi

(Glutinous Rice Dumpling)
Local People Making Zongzi
Local People Making Zongzi
Every year, during the Dragon Boat Festival, people in China eat Zongzi (pyramid-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves) and hold dragon boat races as custom to commemorate Qu Yuan. Why? In the hometown of Qu Yuan, there is a popular legend explaining this custom.

According to the legend, after Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River, a man in Qu Yuan's hometown dreamt of him. In his dream, Qu Yuan pined and looked very sad. On seeing him, the fellow villagers all saluted him. Returning the salute, Qu Yuan thanked the villagers' for their love and esteem toward him. One of the villagers found Qu Yuan was not in good health and asked him whether he had eaten the rice the villagers dropped into the river. After thanking the villagers for their efforts, he sighed and said that the rice they sent to him was eaten by fish, shrimps and other aquatic animals. On hearing this, all the villagers became roily. 'How do we prevent fish from eating the rice we send to you?' the villager asked. After thinking for a while, Qu Yuan replied to try wrapping the rice into a pyramid shape with reed or bamboo leaves. The fish will think it is a water chestnut and will not eat it. Following Qu Yuan's suggestion, villagers dropped the wrapped pyramid-shaped glutinous rice in the river during the festival. Later Qu Yuan again appeared in a villager's dream and said although he had eaten some of the food many still had been eaten by fish. The villager asked if he had any more good ideas to solve the problem. Qu Yuan suggested adding dragon pictures on the food and beating drums while rowing their boats. All of the aquatic animals will think that the food is for the king and will not dare to eat the food as they are under the king's command.

Come to Me

Along the Yangtze River, there is Kongling Shoal. During low water season, a rock with three characters, meaning come to me, is visible. Due to the submerged reefs and swift rapids along Kongkling Shoal, many boats and ships have crashed on the rock. Usually when boatman sees the rapids and rock they try to avoid the rock. As a result, boats crash on the rock.

Experienced boatmen came to realize that in order to pass the rocks safely it was necessary to, aim directly at the rock, hence the name 'Come to Me'. Regurgitant thrust allows the boat to maneuver safely between the rocks.

In December of 1900, a German ship passed the Kongling Shoal. When meeting this dangerous shoal and turbulent wave, the captain was panic-stricken and couldn't find his way out. He ordered a Chinese man to steer the ship. As the man was familiar with the principle for passing the rock, he aimed directly at the rock. Thinking the Chinese man intended to destroy the ship, the captain tried to avoid the rock instead, resulting in the ship crashing into the rock and submerging into the river. The accident caused normal shipping channels along the Three Gorges Section to be halted for nine years.

Legend of Yinwotan

(Silver Nest Shoal)

Entering the Daning River, one can see the dangerous shoal called Yinwotan - Silver Nest Shoal. According to legend, nine out of ten ships will sink when passing this shoal. The area was so named due to the fact that in ancient times numerous rich men took money and treasures passing the shoal. Many silver and golden treasures have been dropped in the river as ships overturned.

It is said that, a boy named Yin Long (Silver Dragon) lived there. His parents died when he was ten yeas old. He worked as a helper for a boat boss. One day, an avaricious relative of the boss took the boat from Dachang to Wushan County and Yin Long was ordered to steer the boat. The avaricious man was rich and boasted his treasure by using silver cups, plates and chopsticks on the boat. When passing the Longmen Gorge (one of the gorges of Three Little Gorges of Daning River), the boat wobbled due to encountering many dangerous shoals. The silver vessels the rich man used tipped in response to the river. The rich man thought that Yin Long was intentionally disturbing the vessel and ordered for Yin Long to be beaten. The beating ended in Yin Long being thrown to the sand. His groaning brought the prince of the dragon king. On seeing Yin Long in danger, the prince sent him a precious pearl that could deliver everything he asked for. Taking the pearl home, Yin Long asked for food and clothes to distribute to the poor. Hearing there was precious pearl; the avaricious man who once beat Yin Long sent his understrappers to catch him. Yin Long tricked the men to untie him and he ran toward a gorge. As the servants and rich man were about to catch him Yin Long jumped into a deep pool and turned into a huge dragon. The dragon rolled the rich man and his hired roughnecks into the Daning River and they drowned.

Yin Long continued to lurk in the deep pool of the Silver Nest Shoal and created waves to ships that greedy rich man take. Many rich men and treasure have been buried in the river as a result. Now, the shoal is safe for ship to pass. It is said that Yin Long stopped stirring up trouble after seeing no greedy man exist.

Legend of Goddess Peak

The Goddess peak is the most significant amongst the twelve peaks of Wu Gorge, there are many legends made up by the local people relating to the peak. Please click to get the detailed information about the Goddess Peak and its legend.

 Further Reading:
How does Yangtze River civilization affect China?
- Last updated on Aug. 02, 2022 -
Questions & Answers on Yangtze River Legends
Asked by Ms.yhyhuhhhh | Dec. 20, 2010 18:57Reply
what does the dragon look like?
Answers (1)
Answered by Mr.Francis | Dec. 20, 2010 22:31

Dragon is a kind of mystical animal which is said to have snake body, lizard legs, eagle claw, deer antlers, fish scales, tiger beard and vibrissal tail. It's also said a dragon can fly, swim, hide, show, draw on the clouds and blow out fog, and even collect the clouds to have a rain.
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