China celebrates the Dragon Boat Festival every year on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. This holiday is often in June in the Gregorian calendar (June 25th this year). Each province believes in its legend, to which respond several origins, each marking a fundamental value of the Chinese society. Let us look at some of the most famous myths and customs relating to the Dragon Boat Festival.
QU Yuan’s Story – The strength of patriotism and integrity
The most famous story about the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival is that of QU Yuan. He was notably known as an honest and loyal politician during the Chu dynasty. Thanks to corrupt advisers, The Qin then defeated the Chu kingdom. Following this defeat, QU Yuan threw himself into the Miluo River to protest against corruption and to show his loyalty to the royal family of Chu.To commemorate QU Yuan’s sacrifice, people began to throw rice and other offerings into the river. However, some noticed that the “Jiaolong” (Hornless Dragon) who lived there devoured everything. To remedy this, they had the idea of wrapping the rice with the two things that the Jiaolong feared the most: sheets of wormwood and five-coloured silk threads. The tradition of eating “Zongzi” (粽子) was then born.
The legend of Cao E – The importance of filial piety
Legend has it that the father of 14-year old girl Cao E drowned in the ShunJiang River but that no one found his body. On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the young girl decided to dive into the river to locate him. A few days later, Cao E’s body, wrapping her father in her arms, appeared on the water’s surface. The villagers, touched by this demonstration of filial piety, decided to give the name of Cao E to the river and erected a temple of filial piety in memory of her sacrifice.
Silk and bright colours – Traditional lucky charm
Some consider the fifth day of the fifth lunar month to be a day of bad omens. The custom is that people wear silk sachets attached by coloured ropes to avoid misfortune on this day. The sachets usually contain fragrant herbs to ward off insects and evil spirits. Nowadays, it has become more common to wear braided bracelets with brightly coloured silk threads, often in five different colours.
China: a country in constant search of contexts for celebrations
Chinese people love celebrations of all kinds. This phenomenon is not limited to holidays celebrating fundamental values, traditions or even established superstitions. New opportunities continue to emerge, notably to encourage consumption in the country.
“520 “whose pronunciation recalls that of “I love you “in Chinese (“wo ai ni “) is the most recent example. This event is a new celebration for lovers that was created from scratch a few years ago and is now celebrated by all couples in the country. May 20th has even become a favourite date for weddings in China. Therefore, brands can easily adapt their campaigns to the pre-established calendar of Chinese festivals, and for the most daring, why not try to launch a new celebration itself. Alibaba did it by creating the singles’ day “11.11” so anything is possible…
An Article by Delphine Hœur, a China Expert for Bienvenue Factory in Shanghai, China