BEIJING, June 23 (Xinhua) -- The Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day on the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar, was celebrated Saturday across the nation, and in space as well.
Dragon boat races were organized without a hitch as water level of the rivers and lakes in south China have risen recently due to heavy rains.
From space, three astronauts who are performing China's space mission in the orbiting Tiangong-1 module also sent their festival greetings to all Chinese.
The festival is to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a patriot poet during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), who committed suicide by flinging himself into the Miluo River after the capital of Chu, his mother kingdom, fell to the enemy.
DRAGON BOAT EFFECTS
In the river where Qu Yuan jumped into, the annual dragon boat race was held by the local government for its eighth year.
"People came to rescue Qu Yuan after he threw himself into the Miluo River, which was suddenly crowded with hundreds of boats. It later on became a tradition to have a boat race every year," said Xu Weiming, curator of Qu Yuan Memorial Museum in Miluo city in central China's Hubei province.
"The race was neither feisty nor riddled with profits. People believe that to win the race will bring them good luck for a whole year," said Huang Huashan, a folklore expert in the city.
The boat races have always attracted crowds of people to join with their beautiful dragon boats and hundreds of thousands people to cheer from the banks, Huang said. The municipal government changed the races into a sport in 2005.
Now dragon boat races are not only held in China but around the world.
"Dragon boat crafts should not be lost in this generation. I would like to teach anyone if he or she wants," the old man said.
Another symbol of the festival lies in zongzi, rice dumplings that used to be thrown in the river for the fish to prevent Qu's body being eaten.
Later it became a special food of Chinese people in and out China for the Dragon Boat Festival, which is especially loved by the merchants.
In small towns like Quzici along the Miluo River, people still enjoy packing the dumplings themselves as a family activity, while in many big cities, people flock to supermarkets to buy zongzi.
Over the last 2,000 years, zongzi had been spread from the river bank to overseas countries, which made the small little thing to be one of the most traditional food in Chinese history, said the curator Xu Weiming.
"As a carrier of Chinese traditional culture, the food has become a link between Chinese people at home and abroad," Xu said.
Besides zongzi, ancient Chinese believed that the fifth day on the fifth month on the lunar calendar was the most "toxic" day in the year, said Chen Jing, deputy director of cultural and natural heritage institute of Najing University.
To avoid bites from mosquitos and other insects, ancient Chinese hung fragrant herbs at home and attached sachets containing fragrant herbs to their clothes, Chen said.
People drink wine to drive away diseases, and clean their rooms with brooms to keep demons away, Chen said.
Poetry chanting have also been held for years in the hometown of Qu Yuan in Zigui county in Hubei.
"Qu Yuan's spirits are bitter medicine for the minds of Chinese people. He build up a tatoo of integrity for the nation," said poet Liu Zhongyang at the poem activity.
Twenty poets and 40 descendants of Qu Yuan commemorated him by reciting poems.
"It is the tradition of holding poetry competitions on the festival that encourages the farmers to write poems during their busy days," said Huang Qiong, president of Saotan Poetry Society, one of the poetry societies in the small town.
"To write poems is not pretending to be arty. It is only the true emotions in my chest and the true praise to Qu Yuan," said 87-year-old poet Li Guojie.