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The History of the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival

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Below is the history of the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival in both Chinese characters and Pinyin. You can test your Chinese reading skill sentence by sentence by first reading a sentence and then clicking on the red link to see the translation in our Online Dictionary.

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Please note that the English version is not translated word for word. To see how each Chinese character would translate into Chinese, just click on the Chinese sentences below!

端午节的传说 (duān wǔ jié de chuán shuō) The History of the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival

端午节为每年的农历五月初五,是古老的传统节日,始于中国的春秋战国时期①,距今已有两千多年的历史”端”在古汉语中是初始的意思,“端五”也就是初五古人纪年通用天干地支②,按地支“子丑寅卯辰巳午未申酉戌亥”顺序推算,正月开始为寅月,第五个月正是“午月”古时,“午”与“五”通用,故“端午”与“端五”同义又因其月数和日数相同,人们又称端午节为“重五节”或“重午节”

duān wǔ jié wéi měi nián de nóng lì wǔ yuè chū wǔ, shì gǔ lǎo de chuán tǒng jié rì, shǐ yú zhōng guó de chūn qiū zhàn guó shí qī, jù jīn yǐ yǒu liǎng qiān duō nián de lì shǐ.  ‘Duān’ zài gǔ hàn yǔ zhōng shì chū shǐ de yì si, ‘duān wǔ’ yě jiù shì chū wǔ. gǔ rén jì nián tōng yòng tiān gān dì zhī, àn dì zhī ‘zǐ chǒu yín mǎo chén sì wǔ wèi shēn yǒu xū hài’ shùn xù tuī suàn, zhēng yuè kāi shǐ wèi yín yuè, dì wǔ gè yuè zhèng shì ’wǔ yuè. gǔ shí, ‘wǔ’ yǔ ‘wǔ’ tōng  yòng, gù ‘duān wǔ’ yǔ ’duān wǔ’ tóng yì. Yòu yīn qí yuè shù hé rì shù xiāng tóng, rén men yòu chēng duān wǔ jié wéi ‘chóng wǔ jié’ huò ‘chóng wǔ jié’.

端午节的传说有很多不同版本,其中最广为人知的一个传说与战国时期的诗人屈原③有关

duān wǔ jié de chuán shuō yǒu hěn duō bù tóng bǎn běn, qí zhōng zuì guǎng wéi rén zhī de yī gè chuán shuō yǔ zhàn guó shí qī de shī rén qū yuán yǒu guān.

屈原是战国时期的楚国④诗人、政治家他主张对内变法,对外联合齐国⑤抗击秦国⑥因为遭到贵族的排挤毁谤,被罢官流放后来楚国国都被秦国攻破,屈原眼见自己的祖国被侵略,悲愤交加,于五月初五,怀石自沉于汨罗江⑦,以身殉国

qū yuán shì zhàn guó shí qī de chǔ guó shī rén, zhèng zhì jiā. Tā zhǔ zhāng duì nèi biàn fǎ, duì wài lián hé qí guó  kàng jī qín guó. yīn wèi zāo dào guì zú de pái jǐ huǐ bàng, bèi bà guān liú fàng. hòu lái chǔ guó guó dū bèi qín guó gōng pò, qū yuán yǎn jiàn zì jǐ de zǔ guó bèi qīn lüè, bēi fèn jiāo jiā, yú wǔ yuè chū wǔ, huái shí zì chén yú mì luó jiāng, yǐ shēn xùn guó.

传说屈原投江后,当地百姓闻讯马上划船捞救,却始终不见屈原的尸体百姓又怕江河里的鱼蟹和蛟龙水兽吃掉他的身体,纷纷回家拿来雄黄酒⑧倒进江里药晕蛟龙水兽,米团投入江中喂食鱼蟹后来,在每年的五月初五,就有赛龙舟、喝雄黄酒和吃粽子的风俗,以此来纪念爱国诗人屈原

chuán shuō qū yuán tóu jiāng hòu, dāng dì bǎi xìng wén xùn mǎ shàng huá chuán lāo jiù, què shǐ zhōng bù jiàn qū yuán de shī tǐ. Bǎi xìng yòu pà jiāng hé lǐ de yú xiè hé jiāo lóng shuǐ shòu chī diào tā de shēn tǐ, fēn fēn huí jiā ná lái xióng huáng jiǔ dào jìn jiāng lǐ yào yūn jiāo lóng shuǐ shòu, mǐ tuán tóu rù jiāng zhōng wèi shí yú xiè. hòu lái, zài měi nián de wǔ yuè chū wǔ, jiù yǒu sài lóng zhōu, hē xióng huáng jiǔ hé chī zòng zi de fēng sú, yǐ cǐ lái jì niàn ài guó shī rén qū yuán.

春秋战国时期 (chūn qiū zhàn guó shí qī): the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period, 770 BC – 221 BC, is a long-term division in the history of China.

天干地支 (tiān gān dì zhī): heavenly-stem and Earthly-branch system, Chinese calendrical system

屈原 (qū yuán): name, Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), famous Warring States statesman and poet

楚国 (chǔ guó): the state of Chu during the spring and autumn and Warring States period

齐国 (qí guó): the state of Qi during the spring and autumn and Warring States period

秦国 (qín guó): the state of Qin during the spring and autumn and Warring States period

汨罗江 (mì luó jiāng): Miluo river in Jiangxi and Hunan provinces, flows into Dongting lake

雄黄酒 (xióng huáng jiǔ): realgar wine (traditionally drunk during the Dragon Boat Festival

English Translation

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar. This is an old and traditional festival, which dates back around 2000 years to the Chinese Spring and Autumn Period.

” (duān) in Ancient Chinese means “beginning”, and so the combination of “端五” (duān wǔ) means the ‘5th’. In ancient times the ‘Heavenly-stem’ and ‘Earthly-branch’ system was used to calculate the year and date. According to the sequence of the Earthly branch, “子丑寅卯辰巳午未申酉戌亥” (zǐ chǒu yín mǎo chén sì wǔ wèi shēn yǒu xū hài), the first month is “寅月” (yín yuè), so the 5th month is “午月” (wǔ yuè). In ancient China, “午” (wǔ) was used as “五” (wǔ), which means that “端午” (duān wǔ) has the same meaning as “端五” (duān wǔ). Since the month of the festival is the same as the date, people often call the Dragon Boat Festival ‘端午节‘ (duān wǔ jié),  “重五节”或“重午节” (chóng wǔ jié huò chóng wǔ jié).

There are several different stories about the origins of the Dragon Boat Festival. One of the most famous is related to the poet Qu Yuan who lived during the Spring and Autumn Period.

Qu YuanQu Yuan was a poet and politician of the ancient state of Chu. He advocated political reform in the country and wanted to unite the Qi to resist the powerful state, Qin. He was eventually dismissed from office and banished to an outlying area, and was marginalised by the nobility. Later, the capital of Chu was breached by the Qin. Qu Yuan saw that his motherland had been invaded, and with bitterness and anger, on the 5th day of the 5th month, he held stones and drowned himself in the Miluo River, giving his life for his country.

It is said that once they had heard of Qu Yuan’s drowning in the river, the local people rowed out in boats to try and rescue him, but never found his body. The people were afraid that the fish, crabs, dragons or other water beast would eat his body, so they went back home to take Realgar wine and poured into into the river to get rid of the dragons and water beast. They also threw rice balls into the river to feed the fishes and crabs.

Nowadays, on every 5th day of the 5th month, is has become customary to row dragon boats, drink Realgar wine and eat zongzi (rice balls), to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan.

粽子 (zòng zi ) Zongzi

34017c3818be64c55fa23d30ada9f3c2粽子 (zòng zi) Zongzi are a traditional Chinese food that consists of glutinous rice stuffed with meats or bean paste and wrapped in a leaf, most often bamboo.  They are cooked through steaming or boiling.

Although they are most commonly found in a pyramid shape, they can also be found in different shapes and sizes throughout China. Zongzi might be constructed as a family activity over the Dragon Boat period.

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