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The Legend of Dragon Boat Festival

For thousands of years, the tradition of the Dragon Boat Festival has been passed down from one generation to the next. But where did it come from and why did people eat Zongzi and race dragon boats? Many scholars have studied these questions and given their academic explanations. But if you ask ordinary people about its origin, you'll get the same answer, that is, to honor the great patriotic poet, Qu Yuan.
Qu Yuan was born in 340 BC, during the Warring States Period. At that time, the area today known as central China was divided into seven main states or kingdoms battling among themselves to unify China. Among the seven states, Qin was the strongest and Chu the largest. Qu yuan was a noble of Chu. During his lifetime, the powerful kingdom of Chu fell into a decline. Early in his life, Qu Yuan won the confidence of the king of Chu, and was his deputy prime minister, helping draft laws and determine foreign policy. He was regarded as a champion of political loyalty and integrity, and eager to maintain the Chu state's autonomy and hegemony. When he saw the danger posed by the ambitious Qin State , he proposed government reforms and an alliance with the neighboring Qi state as a way to ensure Chu's safety. But the King of Chu was surrounded by self-seekers, who were jealous
of Qu Yuan, and slandered Qu Yuan as 'a sting in flesh'. They accepted bribes from the Qin's envoy, dissuaded the King from taking Qu Yuan's advice and brought about the poet's estrangement from the King. Qu Yuan was finally sent into exile for 20 years.
During those desperate years, Qu Yuan helplessly watched his beloved country become weaker every day. In the year 278 BC, the capital of Chu was stormed by troops from Qin. In great pain, Qu Yuan wrote Li Sao or The Lament, the greatest of all his poems. And For he created a new style of poetry - Chu Ci, Qu Yuan is considered to be the first poet in Chinese literature. On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, he drowned himself in the Milo River, because he was hopeless about his country's future.

The common people, upon learning of his suicide, rushed out on the water in their fishing boats to the middle of the river and tried desperately to save Qu Yuan. They beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles in order to keep the fish and evil spirits from his body (thus called Dragon Boat Festival). Later on, they scattered rice into the water to prevent him from suffering hunger. Another belief is that the people scattered rice to feed the fish, in order to prevent the fishes from devouring the poet's body.

However, late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends and told them that the rice meant for him was being intercepted by a huge river dragon. He asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon. This has been a traditional food ever since known as zongzi or sticky rice wrapped in leaves, although they are wrapped in leaves instead of silk.

Although Qu Yuan died thousands of years ago, he is remembered every year for his love of and loyalty to his country and his people. Every year ,during the Duanwu Festival, the day of Qu Yuan's death, people race dragon boats, eat Zong Zi to commemorate him.

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