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Who is Qu Yuan? Poet, Statesman and Ideologist

Updated on November 28, 2013

Qu Yuan is From the Warring States Period of Chinese History

Situated on the banks of the mighty Yangtze River, at Xiangjiaping, 1.5km from Guizhou Town, Zigui County in Hubei Province, stands this impressive memorial and shrine to the famous poet, statesman and Ideologist of Chinese history, Qu Yuan. The recent flooding of the river for the 3 Gorges Dam project threatened its very existence, but the Chinese Government introduced measures to preserve this historical shrine. Brick by brick and piece by piece, the entire site was moved to a hillside nearby to ensure the river would not engulf it! Nowadays, Qu Yuan is remembered mainly for his connection to the Dragon Boat Festival, held in the middle of the year. Read on to find out more about this interesting statesman from ancient China...

Image: drs2biz | Lens Updated: November 28th, 2013 @ 8:10 pm Beijing time.

Qu Yuan Lived in the Warring States Period

... and lived from 340 to 278 BCE

Qu Yuan
Qu Yuan

Read About Qu Yuan on Wikipedia

Read what the online reference source has to say...

Qu Yuan (ca. 340 BCE - 278 BCE) was a Chinese scholar and minister to the King from the southern Chu during the Warring States Period. His works are mostly found in an anthology of poetry known as Chu Ci. His death is traditionally commemorated on Duanwu Festival, which is commonly known in English as the Dragon Boat Festival or Double Fifth (fifth day of the fifth month of the traditional Chinese calendar).

... read the rest of the Wikipedia article.

Watercolour image of Qu Yuan
Watercolour image of Qu Yuan

He forfeited his own life in the name of his country

The "Dragon Boat Festival" is celebrated each year in his name

His poetry is inspiring and is celebrated to this day

Dragon Boat Racing
Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat Festival on Wikipedia

Read About The Connection With Qu Yuan...

The best-known traditional story holds that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BC - 278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu, in the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty. A descendant of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance. Qu Yuan was accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered. Twenty-eight years later, Qin conquered the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth month.

It is said that the local people, who admired him, threw food into the river to feed the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan's body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.

Read more on Wikipedia!

Zong Zi
Zong Zi

Zong Zi Tradition on Double Fifth Festival

Read about this tradition in Wikipedia...


Zongzi (or zong) is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. They are known in Japanese as chimaki. Laotians, Thais, and Cambodians (known as Nom Asom) also have similar traditional dishes influenced by zongzi. In the Western world, they are also known as rice dumplings or Chinese tamales. Among the Filipino-Chinese people in the Philippines, zongzi is more popularly known as machang (POJ: bah-chg) in the Lan-nang dialect.


Zongzi is traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival (Mandarin: Duanwu; Cantonese: Tuen Ng) which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar (approximately early to mid-June), commemorating the death of Qu Yuan, a famous Chinese poet from the kingdom of Chu who lived during the Warring States period. Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn his king and countrymen against the expansionism of their Qin neighbours. When the Qin Dynasty general Bai Qi took Yingdu, the Chu capital, in 278 BC, Qu Yuan's grief was so intense that he drowned himself in the Miluo river after penning the Lament for Ying. According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent fish from eating the poet's body. Another version states that zongzi were given to placate a dragon that lived in the river. the rest of the Wikipedia article

Yangtze River From the Qu Yuan Museum - The Yangtze River, from the balcony of the museum...

Yangtze River, viewed from Qu Yuan Museum
Yangtze River, viewed from Qu Yuan Museum

Image from the balcony of the Qu Yuan museum in Xiangjiaping, by drs2biz!

Here's a Watercolour Image of Qu Yuan

Watercolour Image of Qu Yuan!
Watercolour Image of Qu Yuan!

Water Colour Image of Qu Yuan, displayed in the museum, captured by drs2biz!

Qu Yuan "An Introduction to Chinese Literature" - by Liu Wu-chi (Indiana University Press) ---

"Qu Yuan [Chu Yuan ] (circa 340-278 b.c.e.), the chief poet in the Songs of Chu, was a member of the ruling house, a statesman and diplomat. In his youth, he had a brilliant official career and was made a court minister and at one time the Chu envoy to Chi (in Shantung), a great neighbouring state. But Chu Yuan's comet-like success incurred the jealousy of his fellow ministers, who slandered and intrigued against him in the court. As a consequence, Qu Yuan lost the king's favour and was dismissed from office.

There were several ups and downs in his career - after each banishment he was recalled to court, only to be again rebuffed and disgraced. In the meantime, his country was in danger.

Failing to heed Qu Yuan's advice, the king of Chu foolishly went to a conference with the king of Qin (in Shensi), the most powerful military state in that period. He was held there by the Qin army and died in captivity. His son, the new king, instead of avenging his father's death, made a humiliating peace with his enemy. This, however, did not deter the Qin's aggressive designs against Chu, and Qu Yuan, who had started his exile as a result of his political failure, lived long enough to see the capital of his state plundered and ruined by the conquering army of Qin in 278 b.c.e.

At that time, Qu Yuan was already an old man of over sixty, and the fall of the Chu capital was the last straw to his patriotic hope. He does not seem to have long survived his disaster, for the next we hear of him is that he had drowned himself in the river Mi-lo.

Tradition says that his death occurred on the fifth day of the fifth moon (month). Ever since, the day is celebrated as the Day of Dragon Boat Festival to commemorate his drowning.

As the first known and recorded great poet in China, Qu Yuan has been called the father of Chinese poetry and has become, in the opinion of many, a national cultural hero."

Is There Substantial Proof Qu Yuan Was Gay? - Take a look at this and see what you think...

Image of Qu Yuan's "Li Sao"
Image of Qu Yuan's "Li Sao"

Many of the greatest creative minds in history have been linked with this "alternative lifestyle". Also some of the greatest warriors, such as Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great have been claimed to be bisexual and Richard "The Lion-heart" was reputedly gay. Why not this greatest of China's patriotic statesmen-poets?

Wikipedia states... "In the year 1944, the scholar Sun Cizhou published a work stating that one of the most famous ancient Chinese poets, Qu Yuan, was a lover of his king. Sun cited the poetry of Qu Yuan to prove his claim. In Qu Yuan's most important work Li Sao (Sorrow of parting), Qu Yuan called himself a beautiful man (or woman, Pinyin: beautiful person = mei ren). A word he used to describe his king was used at that time by women to characterise their lovers."

Not that there's anything wrong with that! What do you think?

Quick, what do you think of Qu Yuan?

See results

Did you enjoy reading about Qu Yuan? Leave your comments and questions below and note that, although html code is allowed in your comments, spam will be deleted. Please take the time to rate this lens a "thumbs up" at the top LH corner of the page. If you enjoyed it, you may care to mark it as a favourite as well. Not a Squidoo member yet? You're missing out on all the fun. Squidoo is free to join and use, and you can even make some money for your favourite charity, our even for yourself (gasp). Go ahead, make my day and make your first lens now.

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What Do You Think About Qu Yuan? - Please leave your thoughts here about Qu Yuan...

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      QU Yuan sounds like a pretty big badass. Good job and great lens.

    • drs2biz lm profile imageAUTHOR

      David Schroeter 

      8 years ago from St Kilda, Victoria, Australia

      @jimmielanley: Thank you Jimmie. This Group/Lens has some great information about China on it!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Quick 

      8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Finally featured on Learning About China Headquarters.

    • perciavalle profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a fantastic and informative lens! I had never heard about Qu Yuan or the dragon boat festival until now. I will surely talk to my Chinese friends about him just to see what the legend is these days! Thanks for sharing this!

    • drs2biz lm profile imageAUTHOR

      David Schroeter 

      8 years ago from St Kilda, Victoria, Australia

      @SandyMertens: Thanks, Sandy. He was certainly an interesting and complicated man who is still revered today in China and elsewhere!

    • drs2biz lm profile imageAUTHOR

      David Schroeter 

      8 years ago from St Kilda, Victoria, Australia

      @Sensitive Fern: Thanks, Gretchen. It must have been lonely there on the battlefields during the Crusades, with only the Knights Templar to keep him company ;-)

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Thank you for this history lesson on such a wonderful, unselfish man. Interesting information on whether he was gay. 5 stars.

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 

      8 years ago

      I knew about dragon boat festivals but I had no idea about the fascinating and dramatic story behind them. (And I didn't know Richard the Lionheart was possibly gay. I've seen his tomb.) Interesting lens bringing to light information I didn't know I was missing. 5*

    • drs2biz lm profile imageAUTHOR

      David Schroeter 

      8 years ago from St Kilda, Victoria, Australia

      @clouda9 lm: Thanks, Correen. I appreciate this high praise from you. Unfortunately, I can no longer access Facebook (as well as Twitter, Blogspot, Friendfeed and Youtube) here in China. I would love you to add this page to the SquidWho page, however. Thank you.

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 

      8 years ago

      This lens about Qu Yuan is filled with so much history and very stunning photos. I truly enjoyed my browse and learning more about this history! Thank you.

      Check out the SquidWho page on Facebook to submit this lovely lens!


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