Another festival for the living, commonly called the Fifth Moon Festival(五月节), was celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon. The proper name for this festival was the Upright Sun Festival (端午节）, but foreigners in China referred to it as the Dragon-Boat Festival(龙舟节).
The Fifth Moon Festival was also noted for its dragon-boat races, especially in the southern provinces, where there are many rivers and lakes. This regatta commemorated the death of Qu Yuan(屈原), an honest minister who is said to have committed suicide by drowning himself in a river.
Qu Yuan was a minister in the kingdom of Chu (楚), situated in present-day Hunan(湖南) and Hubei(湖北) provinces, during the Warring States period (475 — 221 BC). He was upright, loyal and highly esteemed for his wise counsel that had brought peace and prosperity to the kingdom. However, when a dishonest and corrupt prince vilified Qu Yuan, he was disgraced and dismissed from his office. Realizing that the country was now in the hands of evil and corrupt officials, Qu Yuan clasped a large stone and leaped into the Mi Lo (汨罗) river on the fifth day of the fifth moon. Nearby fishermen rushed over and tried to save him, but they were unable even to recover his body. Thereafter, the kingdom declined and was eventually conquered by the kingdom of Qin(秦).
The people of Chu, mourning the death of Qu Yuan, threw rice into the river to feed his hungry ghost every year on the fifth day of the fifth moon. One year, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared and told the mourners that a huge reptile in the river had stolen the rice that had been offered. The spirit advised them to wrap the rice in silk and bind it with five different colored threads before tossing it into the river.
On the Fifth Moon Festival, a glutinous rice pudding called Zongzi (粽子)was eaten to symbolize the rice offerings to Qu Yuan. Ingredients such as beans, lotus seeds, chestnuts , pork fat and the golden yolk of a salted duck egg were often added to the glutinous rice. The pudding was wrapped with bamboo leaves, bound with a sort of raffia and boiled in salt water for hours.
The dragon-boat races represented the attempts to rescue and recover the body of Qu Yuan. A dragon-boat ranged from fifty to one hundred feet in length with a beam of about five and a half feet, accommodating two paddlers sitting side by side. A wooden dragonhead was attached at the bow, and a dragon tail at the stern. A banner hoisted on a pole was also fastened at the stern. The hull was decorated with a design of red, green and blue scales edged in gold. In the center of the boat was a canopied shrine. Behind the shrine sat drummers, gong-beaters and cymbal-crashers that would set the pace for the paddlers. Men standing at the bow set off firecrackers, tossed rice into the water and made believed they were looking for Qu Yuan. All the noise and pageantry created an atmosphere of gaiety and excitement for the participants and spectators. Competitions were held between different clans, villages and organizations, and winners were awarded medals , banners, jugs of wine and festive meals.
After the races, the wooden head and tail of the dragon were detached and stored either at the clan headquarters or at the local temple. The hull was buried in the muddy river to prevent cracking, warping and shrinkage. The boats were therefore reconditioned annually before the festival.
Now, on the fifth day of the lunar fifth moon, all Chinese people celebrate this festival by eating Zongzi.