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Dragon Boat Festival

Updated on June 13, 2015

Eat Zong zi and Paddle a Dragon Boat!

Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month. But that's not May 5th. This holiday is calculated according to the lunar calendar.

  • 2015 Dragon Boat Festival -- June 20.
  • 2016 Dragon Boat Festival -- June 9.

Along with the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival is one of the biggest traditional holidays in China. The origin of this holiday is a bit troubling -- a poet Qu Yuan 屈原 (about 300 BC) killed himself by jumping into the river on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. A very patriotic person, Qu Yuan attracted the wrath of the king by stating his concerns about the govenrment. Later when his country was overrun by enemy solidiers, the ever loyal poet killed himself out of grief for the pain his country was facing.

You may want to be selective about what you share with your children about this holiday, especially if they are sensitive. It's not a very happy story.

The Chinese name of this holiday is Duan Wu Jie 端午节 or "Double Five Holiday."

photo credit

Dragon Boat

Dragon Boat
Dragon Boat

More of the Dragon Boat Story

The story picks up after Qu Yuan drowned. Local fishermen tried to no avail to get Qu Yuan's body from the river. To protect his body from hungry fish, they threw food into the river to distract them. Today we eat zong zi as a symbol of that food thrown into the river. They splashed the water with their paddles and beat the drums on their long, narrow fishing boats in an attempt to scare off the fish.

In later years, a dragon was added into the story. Fishermen believed there was a water dragon living in the river. After one man poured an urn of strong rice wine into the river, a drunken dragon floated to the surface. Tangled among the whiskers of this water dragon was found a fragment of Qu Yuan's clothing.

Many years later in southern China, dragon boat racing grew to become associated with memorializing Qu Yuan's noble death.

Today, people around the world celebrate Dragon Boat Festival. And dragon boat racing has become a sport of its own, not simply a tradition reserved to Chinese people.

Ideas for Celebrating Dragon Boat Festival

1. Make a dragon boat craft

2. Read a good book about this holiday

3. Eat sticky rice zong zi

4. Make a paper zong zi craft.

5. Make a Dragon Boat Festival lapbook.

Awakening the Dragon: The Dragon Boat Festival
Awakening the Dragon: The Dragon Boat Festival

This book not only describes the Dragon Boat Festival but explains the modern day sport of dragon boat racing.

Chinese Culture Active Learning Series Book 1: Chinese Traditional Holidays and Festivals
Chinese Culture Active Learning Series Book 1: Chinese Traditional Holidays and Festivals

Chinese Traditional Holidays and Festivals is a motherlode of information for parents, teachers and students. Everything you would ever need to know about China's traditional holidays and festivals is packed into this slim, well-designed, child-friendly book and CDRom set.


What is your favorite Chinese holiday?

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Zong Zi

Zong zi 粽子 are the food associated with Dragon Boat Festival. These delicious "dumplings" are basically glutinous/sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves into a pyramid shape and then steamed. Inside each bundle, the zong zi may be flavored in many different ways. Savory ones include pork, peanuts, egg yolk, or seafood. Sweet zong zi may have red bean paste or dates inside.

Try Eating China for a recipe. It may be a bit difficult to make, so here is a modified recipe that you can do at home to try your hand at zong zi:

Cook some sticky rice according to package directions. Take a ball of warm, salted rice in your hand and make an indention in it. Into the hollow, add your choice of these ingredients: peanuts, bacon bits, egg yolk, chopped dates. Press the sticky rice around the filling, and enjoy!

The food zong zi is as much a part of this holiday as dragon boat racing is! In fact, in areas without waterways, eating zong zi is the main way to celebrate this festival.

Another zong zi activity -- make paper models of zong zi using this pyramid template. Print it on green paper or color the template green. Fill your pyramid with the scrap paper you cut away from the template to keep if from crumpling. Then wrap twine or rafia around it as if tying it shut for steaming! Voila! A paper zong zi craft!


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    • livetech profile image

      livetech 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great to read this info. I enjoyed the 2014 Dragonboat Festival in China, taking part in races and observing others battle it out along the river in Hangzhou! I was given a huge bag of Zongzi by a Chinese friend - some with meaty fillings and some with a kind of sweet berry - very delicious!

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      We had some fun at the dragon boat races one year. An entertaining holiday.

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 5 years ago from State of Confussion

      I admit I was here more for the pictures than the facts.

    • profile image

      GreenwichBoat 5 years ago

      Great post. We are getting ready to have our big boat show. With many of the boats you love. Plus, you get to try them out yourself, in our sea-trials. April 21-22.

      Greenwich Boat Show

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 6 years ago

      Clever way to make learning fun ... nicely done! Congratulations on having one of the top 35 homeschooling lenses.

    • Hedremp profile image

      Sandra Wilson 6 years ago from Wilson Education Resource Centre

      what a great cultural lesson!

    • Actiongames LM profile image

      Actiongames LM 6 years ago

      Learning is power

    • Dragon 40 profile image

      Ken McVay 6 years ago from Nanaimo, British Columbia

      What a great lens - really appreciate the history lesson!


      DB Coach

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I've heard of dragon boat festivals from my sister who goes to one in her area every year. I would love to attend one day. Beautifully and educationally done!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 7 years ago

      The dragon boat festival sounds like a lot of fun though I have never been to one.

      Now there is something to look forward to.

    • profile image

      kt_glasses 7 years ago

      zong zi looks so yummy, seems to be a fun festival.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 7 years ago

      Love the photos. There is a dragon boat festival in my area every year, but I've never made it. Hopefully this time.

    • profile image

      boatcrafter 7 years ago

      Interesting lens, I'd completely forgotten we used to have some dragon boat racing locally, I'll have to check them out. not quite as exotic as the ones in your lens though.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Holy mackerel but that is an amazing looking boat -- and some kind of festival. Wow! Well, my dear although our paths might not have crossed too many times in the past few months, I want you to know that I have thought about YOU often. I wish that you have a remarkable journey this year. Happy new year my dear and hugeroonies!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 8 years ago from Royalton

      Welcome to the Back to School Group Lensography.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      This is another festival that I would like to attend. I hope you will add it to the plexo on my Festivals, Fairs and Other Special Events lens. Thanks

    • Janet2221 profile image

      Janet2221 8 years ago

      The Dragon photos are wonderful! 5*'s and lensrolled to my new Kai Lan merchandise lens. :)

    • Lewister profile image

      Susan 8 years ago from Texas

      Congrats on winning the Dragon Boat Festival category this week at The Carnival of Squid! Love the pictures on this lens. -

    • annetteghallowe1 profile image

      annetteghallowe1 8 years ago

      In honor of this festival that coincides with the end of my sister in law's teaching contract in China, I am adding this lens into my "featured" lenses on my 365 Holidays lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      We have been in China for 2 weeks now and are hoping to spend the holiday in Shanghai and maybe see some real dragon boat races! Thanks for the lens to help us get our background info. We bought some ready made Zongzi at the local grocery store here in China, but I'm not sure if they're all cooked and ready to warm up and eat or not?

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Oh I like this! I don't know enough about other cultures.

      5 stars and favored.

      And thanks for the blessing on my Utilizing the Blackbox Module. I appreciate it.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      [in reply to Mina Paladino]

      Thank you so much! I had an error in the coding which I've fixed. The link now works.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I tried clicking on the zongzi pyramid template link, but the template didn't appear. Has anyone else tried this?

    • JanieceTobey profile image

      JanieceTobey 8 years ago

      What awesome photos and info about the Dragon Boat Festival! 5's

    • profile image

      filipinotshirts 8 years ago

      this is my first time hearing about dragon boats. beautiful decorations and colors! great lens! thanks for sharing.

    • drs2biz lm profile image

      David Schroeter 8 years ago from St Kilda, Victoria, Australia

      A great lens with stunning images and fantastic information about the great man! I have taken the liberty of linking to this page from my lens about the Museum of Qu Yuan in Zigui. 5 *s and a favourite!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      We'll be attending a Dragon Boat Festival here in Texas for the first time this year. I will have to share this lens with my daughter. Thanks for teaching us all so much!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      i have heard of the dragon boat festival and it looks soo cool, i would love to see one, great job with the lens, and good content, keep it up

      Squidoo Circle of Friends Group

    • profile image

      jaye3000 8 years ago

      I've never heard of these, they're really cool.

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Great lens and beautiful images. I'd love to see this.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 9 years ago from Canada

      Just when I was about to ask, "What is sticky rice zong zi?" you anticipated my question and provided the answer!

      We have a Dragon Boat Festival here in Ottawa. I had absolutely NO idea that it is an official holiday in China. Thank you for educating me on this deliciously colorful lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Please, I would like to get, if possible, the building plans for to build a "dragon boat". Can You help me?

      Thank you, very much!


    • WritingforYourW profile image

      WritingforYourW 9 years ago

      I'd never heard of dragon boats before. This would be a fun festival to see :)

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 9 years ago

      This is a very interesting day to celebrate. I have always followed chinese astrology. I am year of the dog, so I am familiar with the chinese calendar.

      Great lens and glad to learn about Dragon Boat Festival. I found it fascinating!

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 9 years ago

      Very informative. 5*

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Very nice lens. There are so many fascinating Chinese festivals. 5*****

    • profile image

      monopoly 9 years ago

      Great lens - 5 stars! Absolutely beautiful, breath taking pics - I'm going next year! For videos about boats and boating, check out

    • Kheng LM profile image

      Kheng LM 9 years ago

      I knew of Qu Yuan but never know the part of the story regarding the dragon. That's interesting.

      Although not a public holiday, dragon boat races are held in many parts of Asia to mark the festival.

      Great lens.

    • LilliputStation profile image

      LilliputStation 9 years ago

      Another great lens. I had no idea there even was such a holiday. Fascinating, as ususal.

      And now I've got to figure out all the new tricks you used in making this lens! Work, work, work! You sure do know how to keep me busy. ;O)