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After learning of his hometown’s defeat, Qu Yuan—a patriotic poet and advisor to King Huai of the Chu state (during China’s Warring States period)—drowned himself in the Miluo River. After his death, locals threw rice into the river to commemorate him. Shortly after, a man dreamt of Qu Yuan; and seeing that he looked sickly, asked him if he had been eating the rice. Qu Yuan said that the fish had eaten all the rice. He suggested that they wrap it into a pyramid shape with reed or bamboo leaves (now called 粽子 or “zongzi”), so the fish would think it was a water chestnut. The villagers followed Qu Yuan’s advice, but he appeared in another dream saying that the fish had still gotten most of it. To ward off the fish, he instructed the villagers to take large boats decorated with dragons into the water and play loud drums while they rowed. Today, locals in Southern China gather every fifth day of the fifth lunar month to celebrate the Duanwu Festival, or what we’ve come to know as the Dragon Boat Festival. Celebrations typically involve dragon boat races and eating zongzi!
Miluo City, Yueyang, China
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