Dragon Boat Festival Traditions

Dragon Boat Festival Traditions

Dragon boat festival, also known as Duan Wu festival 端午節, falls on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. It is also referred as Double Fifth Festival. It is one of the three most important traditional festivals in China, alongside Chinese New Year and Mooncake Festival.


In ancient China, people believed the fifth lunar month was un unlucky month with various natural disaster and illnesses. To get rid of this misfortune, people would put some strong smell herbs like calamus to remove the bad spirits and diseases.

Later on, the Dragon Boat Festival became the commemorate the death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan 屈原 during Zhou Warring States 春秋戰國 (c. 260BC). Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River due to the conflict with the King. The local people raced out in their boats hoping to retrieve his body and threw rice dumplings (Zong Zi 糉子) on their way. They believed the fish would eat the dumplings instead of the Qu’s body.

The Dragon Boat Race

Dragon Boat Festival New York Flushing

NYC The Official Guide - Dragon Boat Festival 紐約法拉盛龍舟節 

In commemoration of honorable Qu Yuan, the tradition of wrapping the rice in bamboo leaves to make Zong Zi along with the Dragon Boat race began the following year. This festival is also observed in Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam as well as Japan and Korea. This year don’t forget to visit Flushing Meadows Corona Park, New York to see dragon boat teams from all over North America compete in the races. The event is scheduled for Aug 12 and 13, 2023.

Different kind of Rice Dumplings (Zong Zi)

Rice dumplings or Zong Zi are an inseparable part of the annual Dragon Boat Festival. This is a tradition dish of glutinous rice stiffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves.

The shapes of Zong Zi vary and range from pyramid shaped in southern China to an elongated cone in northern China. The fillings used for Zong Zi vary from region to region, but the rice used is almost always glutinous rice (also called "sticky rice" or "sweet rice"). The rice is always soaked in water before using. Some dumplings is darker in color because the glutinous rice is stir-fried in dark soy sauce and five-spice powder.

In the north, Zong Zi tend to be sweet and dessert-like. The fillings including mung bean, red bean paste and taro with jujubes are popular. Other sweet version can be alkaline dumpling dipped in cane sugar or syrup, crystal rice dumpling which made in Tapioca Pearl.

Southern-style Zong Zi tends to be more savory or salty. Fillings includes Chinese ham and sausages, mung bean, peanuts, and shiitake mushrooms, salted duck egg, taro, shredded pork or chicken and pork fat.

Every year, I look forward to eating my grandma’s rice dumplings. The store-bought ones just cannot compare. Last year she decided to luxe up the rice dumpling with abalone and dried scallop and the taste was absolutely amazing! Each savory pyramid packed with marinated pork belly, fragrant dried shrimp, dried scallop, shiitake mushrooms and a whole abalone. Every bite is an explosion of flavors, It’s probably one of the yummiest rice dumplings I’ve ever had. 😋😋😋

 Abalone Rice Dumpling (savory)   


  Alkaline Rice Dumpling (sweet)

Making rice dumplings is not too difficult but the most challenging part is wrapping the dumpling with the bamboo leaves. For those who are experienced in the kitchen, try out homemade dumplings and add any stuffing you want to satisfy your taste buds!

Let us celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival with your family and enjoy the unique aromatic and flavorsome treat.


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  • Ivy Yim