The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the Duanwu Festival, is an important traditional festival for people in Taiwan. It is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This year, it fell on June 9, which is a statutory holiday in Taiwan.
The festival originated during the Warring States period in China over 2,000 years ago. There are various legends explaining its origin, and the best-known story centers on an incorruptible minister named Qu Yuan (343–278 B.C.), who threw himself into the Miluo River (汨羅江) after he was banished by the emperor due to political reasons.
After Qu Yuan’s death, the local people were so sad that they rowed out on the river from Miluo River all the way to Dongting Lake (洞庭湖) to search for his body, but to no avail. They thus beat their oars against the water in a desperate manner to stop fish from eating Qu Yuan’s body. It is said to be the origin of the dragon boat race.
On the other hand, legend has it that after Qu Yuan died, local people threw zongzi into the Miluo River to attract the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body. That is believed to be the origin of eating rice dumplings on the Dragon Boat Festival.
As the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese’s ancestors came from mainland China, Taiwanese people have inherited the essence of the traditional Chinese culture, including the celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival.
Therefore, the most distinctive features of Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan are holding dragon boat races and eating sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves (“zongzi” in Chinese).
Another tradition for the Duanwu Festival in Taiwan is hanging calamus and wormwood leaves on their front doors to dispel evil spirits and bring health to their families, as legend has it that the fifth day of the fifth lunar month was a “vicious day.”