You can find all of our Dragon Boat Festival posts here.
Qu Yuan was a Chinese poet and minister to the Chu King during the Warring States period (343-278 BCE). Due to his strong position against corruption, various officials tricked the King into believing that Qu Yuan had committed treason, and he was sent into exile.
Qu Yuan spent much time composing poetry, and it is said he spent much of his time walking along the banks of a river singing sad poems. When the Qin invaded the Chu state, Qu Yuan jumped into the river to drown rather than see his country governed by those he deemed corrupt and unworthy.
Qu Yuan is revered by the Chinese and honored for his integrity and patriotism.
The legend of Qu Yuan is honored with the Dragon Boat Festival. It is said that when the fishermen saw that Qu Yuan had jumped into the river, they jumped into their boats, and raced off to save him, beating drums in order to keep evil spirits away and throwing rice in the water, so that the fish will eat the rice and leave Qu Yuan's body alone. Another legend tells of a fisherman, who threw a handful of rice into the river to appease the River Dragon, and ensure a bounty of fish. Rather than catching fish, he was confronted with the ghost of Qu Yuan, lamenting of his hunger. Qu Yuan's spirit told the fisherman that the River Dragon eats all the rice that is thrown in the river, leaving nothing for himself. He asked the fisherman to place bundles of rice in bamboo leaves tied with strings, ensuring the dragon would not be able to untie and eat it. The fisherman returned the next day, threw a handful of rice to appease the dragon, and bundles of rice packages for Qu Yuan. From that day on, there was a bounty of fish for the fishermen.
Here is an excerpt of the classical poem Li Sao (The Lament) by Qu Yuan, that mentions his time at court shortly before being exiled: