The Duan Wu - or Dragon Boat - Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. In 2020, that's today, Thursday, June 25th.
Of the many legends associated with this 2,000-year-old festival, the most famous tells the story of Qu Yuan, a poet from the State of Chu during the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC).
Video and Photos from China Daily
Qu Yuan is said to have been loyal and patriotic his whole life. Having held the second highest office in the state, he was briefly banished as a result of political machinations. The allegorical "Li Sao" tells of his political ideals and the corruption and mismanagement of the court. Though he was called back a year later, his poems continued to satirize the corruption, selfishness and disregard for the people on the part of dubious characters who had achieved trusted positions.
When he realized the decline of Chu was beyond recovery, his remorse in knowing he could no longer save it grew stronger and stronger. On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, he clasped a stone to his chest, threw himself into the Miluo River, and died for his beloved homeland.
Locals living by the river rushed into their boats to search for him. They threw jiaoshu (rice dumplings) and other food into the river, to keep fish, turtles, and river dragons from devouring Qu Yuan's body.
To commemorate this patriotic poet, there emerged the custom of holding "dragon boat" races and throwing jiaoshu into the river on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
In 2009, the Dragon Boat Festival became China's first to be selected by UNESCO under "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity."
Most Chinese festivals are tied to specific foods, and this one is no exception. The zongzi is an indispensable part of the Dragon Boat Festival. It is made by soaking glutinous rice, preparing reed leaves for wrapping, wrapping the rice around sweet fillings such as jujube and bean paste (or savory ones like fresh meat or ham), and tying the leaves into pyramidal shapes.
This requires considerable skill if the zongzi are to retain their shapes in the steamers. The tradition recalls the village fisherman scattering rice across the water of the Miluo River.
Qu Yuan's home town, in Zigui county of Central China's Hubei province, is among the 85 regions around the world which hold annual dragon boat races.