Paintings depicting the Dragon Boat Festival

( ) Updated: 2016-06-07 18:00:00

Every May or June, the fragrance of reed leaves fills the air. The Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Festival, falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. In Chinese, “duan” means “outset”, and “wu” is the shortened form of the fifth month in the lunar calendar. Thus, the day is called “duanwu” by the Chinese. The way it has been celebrated has varied across time and place. As many as twenty names for the festival are mentioned in historical records.

Paintings depicting the Dragon Boat Festival

Gather Medicinal Herbs and Grant Owl Soup in Stories of the Dragon Boat Festival by Xu Yang, the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). [file photo]

During the Dragon Boat Festival, ancient people always gathered medicinal herbs, drank realgar wine, and suspended the artemisia and acorus calamus.

Stories of the Dragon Boat Festival, kept in the Palace Museum, reveals folk customs of the festival. In the Qing Dynasty, emperors regarded developing folk customs as a way of stabilizing the political situation. For instance, Stories of the Dragon Boat Festival was drawn under the order of Emperor Qianlong, whose seals can be found on it.

The album is composed of eight pictures with their titles in the official script and notes in the running script. These pictures are Shoot Glutinous Rice Dumplings, Grant Owl Soup, Gather Medicinal Herbs, Feed Mynahs, Suspend A Doll made of Artemisia, Tie Colorful Silk Treads, and Watch Dragon Boat Races.

Special coverage: Your guide to the Dragon Boat Festival

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