Chinese Duanwu Festival

Food Rituals for International Cuisine Term 2 Project

Duanwu Festival

Duanwu or the Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional and statutory holiday originating in China.

The festival now occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese calendar, the source of its alternate name, the Double Fifth Festival.[5] The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, so the date varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. In 2012, it fell on June 23; in 2013, on June 12; and in 2014, it will occur on June 2. The focus of most celebrations involves eating zongzi (sticky rice dumplings), drinking realgar wine (雄黃酒, xiónghuángjiǔ), and racing dragon boats.

The sun is considered to be at its strongest around the time of summer solstice, as the daylight in the northern hemisphere is the longest. The sun, like the Chinese dragon, traditionally represents masculine energy, whereas the moon, like the phoenix, traditionally represents feminine energy. The summer solstice is considered the annual peak of male energy while the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, represents the annual peak of feminine energy. The masculine image of the dragon was thus naturally associated with Duanwu.


Three of the most widespread activities for Duanwu Festival are eating (and preparing) zongzi, drinking realgar wine, and racing dragon boats.

Other common activities include hanging up icons of Zhong Kui (a mythic guardian figure), hanging mugwort and calamus, taking long walks, and wearing perfumed medicine bags. Other traditional activities include a game of making an egg stand at noon (this "game" is one that if you make the egg stand at exactly 12.00 noon you will have luck for the next year), and writing spells. All of these activities, together with the drinking of realgar wine, were regarded by the ancients as effective in preventing disease or evil and promoting health and well-being.


Qu Yuan

The story best known in modern China holds that the festival commemorates the death of the poet and minister Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty.[11] A cadet member of the Chu royal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance and even accused of treason.[11] During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry. Twenty-eight years later, Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River.

It is said that the local people, who admired him, raced out in their boats to save him or at least retrieve his body. This is said to have been the origin of dragon boat races. When his body could not be found, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan's body. This is said to be the origin of zongzi.

Recipe of Zongzi

40 large dried bamboo leaves (2 for each zongzi)
20 long strings (for binding leaves)
1 kg (2.2 Ib) long grain sticky rice
2 kg (4.4 Ib) pork belly, sliced into 3 cm (1") cubes
10 salted duck's egg yolks
40 small dried shiitake (black) mushrooms
20 dried, shelled chestnuts
10 spring onions, cut up into 1 cm (1/2") lengths
500 g (18 oz) dried radish
100 g (3.5 oz) very small dried shrimp
200 g (7 oz) raw, shelled peanuts (with skins)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine
Vegetable oil
5 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
1 teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 star anise
1 teaspoon five spice powder


Prepare and cook ingredients

  1. Soak rice in water for three hours, drain.
  2. Stir-fry pork for a few minutes. Add chestnuts, soy sauce, rice wine, ground pepper, 1 teaspoon of sugar, star anise and five spice powder, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove pork and chestnuts from liquid and set aside.
  3. Boil peanuts until tender (30 minutes to 1 hour).
  4. Soak mushrooms until soft. Clean and trim stalks. Cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Stir-fry with a little liquid from pork stew.
  5. Halve duck egg yolks.
  6. Chop up dried radish finely and stir-fry with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and garlic.
  7. Stir-fry spring onions until fragrant.
  8. Stir-fry shrimp for a few minutes.
  9. To a large wok or bowl, add rice, peanuts, radish, shrimp, spring onions, a little liquid from the stew mixture and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix well.

Wrap zongzi

  1. Soak bamboo leaves in warm water for 5 minutes to tenderise, before washing thoroughly in cold water.
  2. Wet strings to make them more pliable.
  3. Take 2 leaves with leaf stem or spine facing out. Overlap them lengthwise in inverse directions (pointed end of one leaf facing the rounded end of the other).
  4. With both hands hold leaves about 2/3rds of the way along their length. At that point bend them so that they are parallel lengthwise and also overlap. This should produce a leaf pouch that you cup firmly in one hand.
  5. Add a small amount of rice mixture, compressing with a spoon.
  6. Add 1 piece each of pork, chestnut, mushroom, duck egg yoke.
  7. Add more rice until you have nearly a full pouch. Compress firmly with a spoon.
  8. Fold leaves over the open top of zongzi, then around to side until zongzi is firmly wrapped. Zongzi should be pyramid shaped with sharp edges and pointed ends. Trim off any excess leaf with scissors.
  9. Tie up zongzi tightly just like shoes laces with a double knot. Normally they are tied to a bunch of zongzi.
  10. *Steam for 1 hour, unwrap and serve.


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b Chinese Government's Official Web Portal. "Holidays". 2012. Accessed 1 November 2013.
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan). "Holidays and Festivals in Taiwan". Accessed 3 November 2013. (English)
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b Macau Government Tourist Office. "Calendar of Events". 2013. Accessed 3 November 2013.
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b c GovHK. "General holidays for 2014". 2013. Accessed 1 November 2013.
  5. Jump up ^ "Double Fifth (Dragon Boat) Festival".
  6. Jump up ^ Chan, Arlene & al. Paddles Up! Dragon Boat Racing in Canada, p. 27. Dundurn Press Ltd., 2009. ISBN 978-1-55488-395-0. Accessed 1 June 2011.
  7. Jump up ^ General Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. 《国务院办公厅关于2011年部分节假日安排的通知国办发明电〔2010〕40号》. 9 December 2010. Accessed 3 November 2013. (Chinese)
  8. Jump up ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan). "Holidays and Festivals in Taiwan". Accessed 3 November 2013. (Chinese)