The Legend

Colourful boats, rhythmic drumming, thousands of supporters and friendly competition.

The Festival commemorates the death of Chu Yuan (340-278BC), famous Chinese scholar-statesman who served the King of Chu during the Warring States period some three centuries before the birth of Christ. Legend has it that Chu Yuan had protested against a corrupt government and was stripped of his office. He saw the the gradual decline of his mother country, the Chu State. And when he heard that his Chu State was defeated by the strong Chin State, he was so anguished that in the year 295BC, at the age of 37, Chu Yuan clasped a stone to his chest and plunged into the Milo River in China’s Hunan Province.

When local fishermen realized Chu Yuan had disappeared into the river, they raced out in their boats to save him, beating drums to scare off the fish they thought might eat Chu’s body so that his body could be recovered. They also dropped rice dumplings (zong-zi) in the water as a sacrifice to his spirit.

2300 years later, the Chinese still commemorate Chu Yuan through traditions such as Dragon Boat Races, eating zong-zi and other activities.