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"Duan Wu"-- A Day in Memory of A Patriotic Poet

The 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar year is an important day for the Chinese people. The day called "Duan Wu" (meaning Day of Right Mid-Day) is observed everywhere in China. This unique Chinese celebration dates back to earliest times and a number of legends explain its origins.

The best known story centers on a patriotic court official named Qu Yuan, of the State of Chu during the Warring States Period more than 2,000 years ago. Qu tried to warn the emperor of an increasingly corrupt government, but fails. In a last desperate protest, he throws himself into the river and drowns. The State of Chu was soon annexed by the State of Qin.

Later Qu Yuan's sympathizers jump into boats, beat the water with their oars and made rice dumplings wrapped in reed-leaves (zongzi) and scatter them into the Miluo River in the hope that fish in the river would eat the rice dumplings instead of the body of the deceased poet.

The custom of making rice dumplings spread to the whole country. Today, people eat glutinous rice cakes to mark the occasion.

At the news of the poet's death, the local people raced out in boats in efforts of searching his body. Later the activity became a boat race and the boats gradually developed into dragon-boats. In many places along rivers and on the coast today, the holiday also features dragon-boat races. In these high-spirited competitions, teams of rowers stroke their oars in union to propel sleek, long vessels through the water.

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