The Legend of Qu Yuan (333-227 BC)
Qu Yuan descended from the imperial family and is one of China's foremost famous scholars. He is recognised as one of the greatest Chinese poets in history.
Qu Yuan was a statesman and diplomat for the Chu Emperor, and in the time of remorseless wars, he was repeatedly slandered and endured the ongoing jealousy and corruption of his fellow ministers. Qu Yuan's external alliances and objection to the use of force led him to fall out of the King's favour and was dismissed from office and banished, never to return to power.
Humiliated and living in exile, the ever-patriotic Qu Yuan, deeply grieving over the eventual fall of the Chu capitol, tragically drowned himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in that year.
When the news of his suicide reached the villagers, they immediately took to their boats, beating drums and their paddles on the water to frighten fish and water dragons away and prevent them from eating the body of their fallen poet.
According to legend, rice dumplings were thrown into the river, both as a sacrifice to Qu Yuan, and in the hope that this would prevent the fish from eating his body, so giving him immortality.
Chinese tradition commemorates the death of Qu Yuan each year at the Dragon Boat Festival, when respect is paid to the dragon, ruler of the water.