Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Duanwu: The Dragon Boat Festival

Duanwu, the Dragon Boat Festival is held on the fifth day of the fifth moon, which happens to fall on June 12th this year.

You can find all of our Dragon Boat Festival posts here.

Photo Credit: Hugo Lim
The festival has been taking place for thousands of years, to appease and honor the river dragon, and ensuring plenty of rain; and as a way of commemorating Qu Yan, a poet and minister to the king who drowned himself as a protest to the corruption in his country. 

Photo Credit: Mr. Wabu
Dragon boat racing is the highlight of the festival. Each boat represents a village, or an association. These long boats have carved dragon heads attached to their bow and dragon tails attached to their sterns. They can be as long as a hundred feet, with up to eight paddlers, though most often are forty feet long, with twenty paddlers. At the bow of each boat is for the leader, beating a large drum, to set the pace for the paddling. The racing memorializes the rescue efforts for Qu Yan, as fisherman raced in the river to rescue him from his drowning. 

Photo Credit: Geoff S.

During the festival, people hang certain plants, Artemisia and Calamus, around their doors, for good luck, and to repel venomous insects and evil spirits carrying disease. They also hang xiangboa, little sachets with incense and bits of these plants, around their necks as a protective charm.

Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Bouché
Preparing and eating Zongzi is an essential part of the festival. Zongzi are rice dumplings steamed in bamboo leaves, and legend holds that they were dropped in the river for Qu Yuan to ensure his spirit was fed.

You can find a sweet online book for younger kids about the festival here.

Here's a video by UNESCO to see Duanwu being celebrated in China:


Our city has its own dragon boat festival each summer in July, though focused solely on the boat races. It will be interesting to watch knowing its origins and legends. 

To celebrate Duanwu, there are a couple of books worth reading, a roundup of dragon boat crafts, the story of Qu Yuan, making xianboa, and enjoying zongzi

All our Dragon Boat Festival posts can be found here.

You can find more ideas for multicultural activities at 


  1. My family and I would truly enjoy watching a Dragon Boat Festival! Thank you for linking up at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop #5.

    1. We are pretty lucky - our city is hosting one this weekend, though without much of the Chinese element. We are all looking forward to going :)


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