The History Behind the Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival has existed for over 2 millennia and it is an important part of Chinese culture. It´s roots lie deep in the history of the country’s Warring States periods and it has been a long road until it started being celebrated in the city of Edmonton.

A Legend is Born

Between the years 340 and 278 BC, there lived a Chinese poet named Qu Yuan and he was an official of the state of Chu. His loyalty, patriotism, and ruling heritage earned him a post as an advisor of the state´s Kingdom.

Treason and Lies

Other officials fed the King lies about Qu Yuan being a traitor after he had advised the ruler to have the State of Qi as an ally in the fight against the State of Qin. The king believed them and sentenced him to exile, where he continued to show love for his country in the form of beautiful poems.

A Foretold Tragedy

With the poet and advisor gone, the king failed to heed his advice and it cost him dearly, as the Qin State managed to conquer the capital of his kingdom. Far from being happy to have been proven right, the news hit Qu Yuan so hard that he took his own life, walking in the Miluo River during the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

The Local´s Grief

The locals were deeply affected by the news of the poet’s death, rushed to the river, taking their boats, trying to find his body. Unable to find it, they tried to preserve it as much as possible by using their paddles to hit the water and beating drums, to keep evil spirits away from the body.

To further protect him, they fed the fish. Then, a doctor poisoned the monsters with realgar wine he poured in the water.


The locals kept commemorating Qu Yuan by performing the same rituals each year on the same date. Slowly the boats became dragon boats, the realgar wine kept being drunk, and the rice was substituted by dumplings.

Some of it is true, some of it is a legend, but all of it is the history behind the creation and evolution of the Dragon Boats Festival we all enjoy today.