With a history of over 2,000 years, Dragon Boat Festival is an old traditional festival originated from south China. People from different regions hold various ideas on the festival's origin and history, and the most popular saying is the legend associated with the great poet Qu Yuan in Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC).
Among all the theories concerning the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival, the legend story about Qu Yuan is the most popular one, which is widely regarded as the real origin.Qu Yuan was an outstanding patriotic poet as well as politician in late Warring States Period. After witnessing the collapse of his country, Chu State, he was unwilling to give himself up to other countries.
Therefore, he committed suicide by drowning in Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Hearing the woeful news, people sailed boats to salvage his body. To prevent his corpse from fishes' gnawing, people also threw Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) to feed the creatures in the water. The realgar wine is also poured into the river to dispel the fishes away.
Zongzi, the festival food, is made from glutinous rice with various fillings and wrapped in reed leaves. Usually, jujubes are added into rice in northern China; but in southern areas, bean paste, meat, ham, yolks could be wrapped together with rice into Zongzi; there are other fillings as well.
Originated from the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), Zongzi had really developed into a festival food during the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC), when the great poet Qu Yuan committed his death by drowning himself in a river. He was a patriotic poet of the Chu State, and gave his life to the state rather than surrender to other kingdoms. To protect his body from becoming fish's dinner, people fed the water creatures with Zongzi. Since then, eating Zongzi has been kept as one of the most important Dragon Boat Festival traditions.