Dragon Boat Festival in China (dates 2023-2027, history, traditions)

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the Duanwu Festival, is a traditional festival celebrated in China. It is held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, which usually falls in June according to the Gregorian calendar. The holiday has a deep history and roots in Chinese culture, with various traditions and customs associated with it.

This may interest you:

China Dragon Boat Festival Dates

The date of the Dragon Boat Festival is tied to the Chinese calendar. Therefore, in the Gregorian calendar it changes annually. Below are the dates of this holiday for the coming years:

  • 2023: Thursday, June 22.
  • 2024: Monday, June 10th.
  • 2025: Saturday, May 31st.
  • 2026: Friday, June 19th.
  • 2027: Wednesday, June 9.

Where is the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated?

Traditionally, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in China. From 1949 to 2008, this day was not a public holiday in China, but was celebrated locally in some regions. Since 2008, the Dragon Boat Festival has been celebrated everywhere. In addition to the People’s Republic of China, Chinese communities celebrate it in the following countries and territories:

  • Hong Kong.
  • Macau.
  • Singapore.
  • Malaysia.
  • Taiwan.
  • Other South Asian countries.

History and origin

The Dragon Boat Festival originates in ancient China. It is believed that it began to be celebrated more than 2 thousand years ago, during the Warring States period (475-221 BC). The festival is dedicated to the memory of the great poet and statesman Qu Yuan, who lived in the third century BC.

Qu Yuan was a loyal and patriotic minister in the State of Chu. Frustrated by the corruption and political turmoil of his time, he chose self-sacrifice as an act of protest against the ruling class. When the State of Chu was conquered by the State of Qin, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Miluo River in despair and disappointment.

Local residents admired Qu Yuan’s honesty and love for his country. Legend has it that Qu Yuan’s spirit appeared to his friends late one night. He said that he died due to drowning in the river. The poet’s spirit then asked his friends to wrap the rice in triangular silk bags to ward off the dragon.

The minister’s friends rushed into the river in their boats to save him or take his body. People beat drums and struck the water with oars to scare away evil spirits and prevent fish from eating the remains. They threw zongzi, a type of stuffed rice dumpling, into the river. In this way, the villagers fed the fish and distracted it from Qu Yuan’s body.

Traditions and customs

The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated with many customs and traditions. His calling card is:

  • Dragon boat racing.
  • Eating zongzi.
  • Drinking wine with realgar.

Dragon boats are long, narrow boats decorated in the shape of a dragon, with a dragon’s head at the front and a dragon’s tail at the back. Boats can vary in size and accommodate different numbers of rowers depending on the competition.

Dragon boat racing is also a symbolic ritual. It is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck and fortune to the participants and their loved ones. The races are accompanied by the rhythmic beating of drums, and the synchronized movements of the rowers create a unique atmosphere.

Dragon Boat Festival in China.
Dragon Boat Festival in China. CaiguanhaoCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Realgar solution has long been used to spray the home to protect against snakes and insects. Subsequently, it began to be used in Chinese folk medicine. Wine with realgar is believed to ward off evil spirits, illness and bad luck. The Chinese consider it a strong antidote to snake venom.

Another famous tradition of the Dragon Boat Festival is the consumption of zongzi. These are glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves and filled with various ingredients. Usually these are beans, pork, egg yolk or dates. Fillings and flavors differ in each region or country. Zongzi is a deeply symbolic dish that represents the offering of rice to river deities.

Homemade zongzi.
Homemade zongzi. Photo by beautifulcataya, licensed Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Besides dragon boat racing and zongzi, there are other customs associated with the Dragon Boat Festival. Many people wear colorful silk threads on their wrists, ankles or neck. It is believed that this talisman protects them from evil spirits or diseases. Some families hang bags of herbs such as calamus and wormwood on their doors to ward off evil.

Viewpoints on the Dragon Boat Festival in China

The Dragon Boat Festival is widely celebrated and has great cultural significance in China. But there are different points of view and controversy surrounding certain aspects of the festival.


Environmental groups have raised concerns about the festival’s environmental impact. Traditional dragon boats are often made of wood, which contributes to deforestation. Additionally, the use of firecrackers and excessive packaging during the festival creates a significant amount of waste.

To address these issues, some organizations are promoting the use of eco-friendly alternatives such as dragon boats made from recycled materials and calling for waste reduction during the festival.

Danger to people

Security has also become a subject of controversy. The popularity of dragon boat racing has led to an increase in the number of participants and spectators at such events. This raises concerns about the safety of local residents, visitors and foreign tourists. There have been incidents of accidents and injuries during racing. In response, efforts were made to implement stricter rules and safety guidelines to ensure the well-being of all involved.

In this publication, All-Holidays.Info briefly described the Dragon Boat Festival in China. We hope you found it interesting. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends!