Qu Yuan (C. 340–278 BC) was born in the state of Chu during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), a time when seven main states were vying for dominance through territorial expansion.
Legend has it that in 278 BC, the Qin army conquered the capital of Chu. Witnessing the invasion of his homeland, Qu Yuan was deeply anguished. On the fifth day of the fifth month, after penning his final poem, Qu leaped into the Miluo River, sacrificing his life after having composed a magnificent patriotic ode.
To deter fish from feeding on Qu’s corpse in the river, people made waves with their boat paddles and fed the fish rice and leaves. These practices developed into the dragon boat races and zongzi, or glutinous rice dumplings, we have today. The fifth day of the fifth month of the traditional Chinese calendar became a festival in honor of his sacrifice, ensuring that the legacy of his unwavering love for his country is remembered for many generations.
Originally published on chinadaily.com.cn