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Dragon Boat Festival


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.


Dragon Boat Crafts & Coloring Pages

Zong Zi

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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!



Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on May 22, 2020:

It's May and it's Asian-American Heritage. I was looking for a way to celebrate and honor Asian Americans so I came over to this HUB. I know May 5th has come and gone but at least it's still the month of May. So I'm too late. Great article! :)

Paul Levy from United Kingdom on August 28, 2015:

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 on May 13, 2015:

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

PaigSr from State of Confusion on May 27, 2012:

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

GreenwichBoat on March 28, 2012:

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 on December 01, 2011:

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

Sandra Wilson from Wilson Education Resource Centre on November 12, 2011:

what a great cultural lesson!

Actiongames LM on October 06, 2011:

Learning is power

Dragon 40 on September 22, 2011:

What a great lens - really appreciate the history lesson!


DB Coach

anonymous on May 02, 2011:

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 on September 27, 2010:

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.

kt_glasses on September 12, 2010:

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

jolou on May 25, 2010:

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

boatcrafter on January 19, 2010:

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.

julieannbrady on January 02, 2010:

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!

Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on August 17, 2009:

Welcome to the Back to School Group Lensography.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on July 30, 2009:

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 on June 15, 2009:

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

Susan from Texas on May 30, 2009:

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

Annette Geiger on May 27, 2009:

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!

anonymous on May 25, 2009:

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 on May 18, 2009:

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.

Jimmie Quick (author) from Memphis, TN, USA on May 17, 2009:

[in reply to Mina Paladino]

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

anonymous on May 17, 2009:

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

JanieceTobey on May 10, 2009:

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

filipinotshirts on May 05, 2009:

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

David Schroeter from St Kilda, Victoria, Australia on April 17, 2009:

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!

anonymous on March 31, 2009:

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!

anonymous on February 27, 2009:

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

jaye3000 on January 18, 2009:

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

Andy-Po on January 14, 2009:

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

Treasures By Brenda from Canada on November 19, 2008:

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!

anonymous on October 24, 2008:

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 on September 27, 2008:

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

Patricia on September 18, 2008:

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 on September 09, 2008:

Very informative. 5*

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on July 04, 2008:

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

monopoly on June 15, 2008:

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

Kheng LM on April 14, 2008:

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 on April 02, 2008:

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)

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