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Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, is a traditional and statutory holiday associated with Chinese and other East Asian and Southeast Asian societies. It is a public holiday in the Chinese mainland.

It falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

 The Duanwu Festival is believed to have originated in ancient China. A number of theories exist about its origins as a number of folk traditions and explanatory myths are connected to its observance.

 Today the best known of these relates to the suicide in 278 BCE of Qu Yuan, poet and statesman of the Chukingdom during the Warring States period.

The best-known traditional story holds that the festival commemorates the death of poet Qu Yuan (c. 340 BCE – 278 BCE) of the ancient state ofChu, in the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty.

 A descendant of theChuroyal house, Qu served in high offices. However, when the king decided to ally with the increasingly powerful state of Qin, Qu was banished for opposing the alliance.

 Qu Yuan was accused of treason. During his exile, Qu Yuan wrote a great deal of poetry, for which he is now remembered.

 Twenty-eight years later, Qin conquered the capital of Chu. In despair, Qu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in theMiluoRiveron the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

 It is said that the local people, who admired him, threw lumps of rice into the river to feed the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan’s body.

 This is said to be the origin of zongzi. The local people were also said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.

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With the approaching of the Spring Festival in the year of the dragon, various countries including the United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Vietnamand the Philippineshave successively issued stamps of the dragon.

As a component of Chinese traditional culture, the twelve Chinese horoscope animals reflect the culture of animal totems in ancient times. In1950, Japan first issued Chinese zodiac stamp in the year of the tiger. After that, East Asian countries with relatively deep influences of Chinese traditional culture become major foreign countries that issue stamps of Chinese zodiac.

In 1993, Chinese zodiac stamps were issued to commemorate overseas Chinese’s contribution to the local society. Afterward, countries around the world began to vie to issue such stamps, which reflects the distribution capacity of Chinese culture and the influence of China’s rapid development.

This year the “dragon stamps” inAustralia,United States, andFrance were designed by Chinese artists and the designs of overseas Chinese could reflect the spirits of Chinese traditional culture and combine Chinese culture with the culture of the issuing country at the same time.

For example, the American “dragon stamp” is in vividly high spirits, which not only employs elements of Chinese culture, but also underlines the confidence and contemporary feelings of American culture.

The Asian countries that have been under the influence of Chinese culture mainly adopt designs of domestic designers, for example, the Japanese “dragon stamp” this year is mainly designed with elements of local toys, which carries a dense feature of Japan.

As one of the name cards for cultural exchange, stamp is a window and epitome of the culture in a country or region. The unique stamps with Chinese zodiac are the “micro-edition” of a country’s understanding of Chinese culture.

Nowadays, China has increasingly deep cultural exchanges and integration with the issuing country, the application of both countries’ symbols of element is more precise and appropriate, and the understanding and explanation of Chinese elements are gradually closer to the original meaning in Chinese culture.
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China is the most populous country in the world. Wherever there are Chinese people, there are “dragons” regarded as mascots. For over 2,000 years, the dragon has turned from a symbol of deity, emperor and imperial power into a symbol of the rising Chinese nation. The Dragon Dance , accordingly, has been elevated from asking for God and rain to expressing people’s courage, pride and wisdom.

The Dragon Dance has diversified models and forms. The dragon is a totem of the Chinese nation. The farming tribes worship it very much. People think dragons can make clouds and bring them rain. Playing dragon dances in the spring will hopefully bring people favorable weather; playing in dry seasons will bring them rain; playing to different families will drive ghosts out. Therefore, the custom goes on.

The dragons are made into different forms, such as the cloth dragon, the grass dragon, the fire dragon and the segment dragon. The play is accordingly different. The cloth dragon has a separate dragon head and body, which is connected with cloth. The longer the dragon is, the more performers there are. One person uses a pearl-like thing to lead the dragon. The dragon will rise or fall, slowly or rapidly. Sometimes, it flies up to the sky, and sometimes it is like hiding under the ocean and breaking waves. The fire dragon is made with candles put into each section of the dragon body. When performed at night, firecrackers are set off. We see an extremely excellent scene of the fire dragon shuttling back and forth among fireworks. The grass dragon, also called “burning incense dragon”, is made from rice straw and green vines, with burning incenses inserted into it. Played during summer nights, the dragon is like a meteor attracting a lot of insects. When the play is over, the dragon is put into a pool to drown the insects. Therefore, playing with the grass dragon helps get rid of insects.

Usually, the Dragon Dance is performed by many people with specially made stage props in their hands. At first, they sing and dance, like butterflies among flowers. Then, they turn the stage props to form the head and tail of a dragon with some pieces of the lotus-like tools entering the dragon’s body. When the dragon shoots into the sky, the audience feels the elegance and uniqueness of the dance.

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Just a month after the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, Chinese people have another tradition to cheer for. The second day of the second lunar month, or “Er Yue Er”, is not only considered a time for a refreshing haircut, but also the day when the dragon awakens and raises its head.

In the ancient time of China, as the temperature began to rise at this time of year, this date usually marked the end of farmers’ winter break and the beginning of a new agricultural season.

In the Song Dynasty, more than 1,000 years ago, this date was dubbed “the Festival of the Flower Goddess”. Later, in the Yuan Dynasty, people were encouraged to take spring outings around this time.

However, the idea of the dragon raising its head comes from Chinese astronomers of the Qing Dynasty.

According to their observations, a Chinese constellation of a dragon appears in the night, and the second day of the second lunar month is the time when the star that marks the horn of the astronomical dragon rises above the horizon.

Duanwu Festival, also known as Dragon Boat Festival, is a traditional and statutory holiday associated with Chinese and other East Asian and Southeast Asian societies as well. The festival is also celebrated in countries with significant Chinese populations, such as in Singapore and Malaysia.

Celebrations Across China

Tribute to China´s ancient patriotic poet

Various competitions held for wrapping and eating zongzi

What We Must Have

Zongzi

Zongzi is an essential food of the Dragon Boat Festival. It is said that people ate them in the Spring and Autumn Period.

Dragon boat racing

Dragon boat racing is an indispensable part of the festival, held all over the country.

Fragrant bag

It´s believed that if you carry the small spice bag around with you, it not only drives away evil spirits but also brings fortune and happiness.

Hanging pictures of Zhong Kui

Zhong Kui a fierce-looking male brandishing a magic sword, used to be hung up in Chinese houses in order to scare away evil spirits and demons.

Realgar wine

It is a very popular practice to drink this kind of Chinese liquor seasoned with realgar at the Dragon Boat Festival.

Hanging calamus and moxa

On this day, most of the families would also hang calamus and moxa on the front door. This is also to ward off evil.

The Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao in Chinese, is based on a twelve year cycle, each year in that cycle related to an animal sign. These animal signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The Chinese zodiac is calculated according to Chinese lunar calendar .

Origin of Chinese Zodiac
Similar to the ten heavenly stems and twelve earthly branches, animals in Chinese zodiac were also created for counting years as the system that is now universally accepted based on the Christian calendar was as yet non-existent. The selection and order of the animals that influence people’s lives very much was originated in theHan Dynasty(206 – 220) and based upon each animal’s character and living habits. The old time division was mostly related to number 12: one ji equals 12 years, one year has 12 months, one day has 12 time periods called shi chen. Ancient people observe that there are 12 full moons within one year. So, the origin of Chinese zodiac is associated with astronomy. In Chinese tradition, each animal sign is usually related with an earthly branch, so the animal years were called zi rabbit, chou ox, yin tiger, mao rabbit, chen dragon, si snack, wu horse, wei sheep, shen monkey, you rooster, xu dog and hai pig.

12 Animal Signs
For a long time there has been a special relationship between humans and the 12 zodiacal animals. Chinese people believe that the years represented by the animals affect the characters of people in the same manner as the sign of zodiac adopted by western civilizations.

Legend about Chinese Zodiac
Legend has it that one day the gods ordered that animals be designated as signs of each year and the twelve that arrived first were selected. At that time, the cat and the rat were good friends and neighbors. When they heard of this news, the cat said to the rat: ‘We should arrive early to sign up, but I usually get up late.’ The rat then promised to awaken his friend and to go together. However, on the morning when he got up, he was too excited to recall his promise, and went directly to the gathering place. On the way, the rat encountered the tiger, ox, horse, and other animals that ran much faster. In order not to fall behind them, he thought up a good idea. He made the straightforward ox carry him on condition that he sang for the ox. The ox and the rat arrived first. The ox was happy thinking that he would be the first sign of the years, but the rat had already slid in front, and became the first lucky animal of the Chinese zodiac. Meanwhile his neighbor the cat was too late so when it finally arrived, the selection was over. That’s why other animals appear behind the little rat and why the cat hates the rat so much that every time they meet, the cat will chase and kill the rat.

Benming Nian (Year of Birth) 
The animal year when a person was born is called his/her Benming Nian (year of birth). The distinctive zodiacal way of calculating years based on the Chinese calendar decides that every once in every twelve year cycle people will meet their birth sign.

According to Chinese Solar Terms, the Beginning of Spring is the first solar term regarded as the start of a new year. So, years should be divided by this day. Now, Chinese New Year’s Day is commonly adopted as the division of two animal years.

It is said that in one’s year of birth, he will offend ‘Taisui’, a mysterious power or celestial body that could control people’s fortune. That is, he will meet either exultation or misery during that year. The best way to avoid miserable events is to wear red clothes, a waistband, or decorations such as a red bracelet and necklace as a talisman that must be purchased by others. If the person himself buys them, the function of the talisman is greatly reduced.

This may be due to the Chinese people’s special affection for red since the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220). In the Han people’s wedding ceremony, the bride was picked up by her bridegroom’s red sedan, the new couple wore red clothes, and their rooms were decorated with red candles, red carpets and red lanterns. When an army won a battle, victory would be reported with a red flag; and when a candidate passed the imperial examination, he would wear red flowered clothes. Thus redness has become the token of festivities, success, bravery, rightness, and exorcism. From another point of view, there are just more and greater changes in the birth year than in other years, which are not always ominous. A change to one’s  fate to ensure the predomination of good fortune requires both effort and a firm belief.

12 Zodiac Signs and Time
Rat: 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., named zi shi (time period of zi). This is the time rats actively seek food.
Ox: 1 to 3 a.m., named chou shi (time period of chou). This is the time that oxen ruminate.
Tiger: 3 to 5 a.m., named yin shi (time period of yin). Tigers hunt prey and display their fiercest nature.
Rabbit: 5 to 7 a.m., named mao shi (time period of mao). Based on tales, the jade rabbit on the moon was busy pounding medicinal herb with a pestle.
Dragon: 7 to 9 a.m., named chen shi (time period of Chen). Dragons were said to hover in the sky at that time to give people rainfall.
Snake: 9 to 11 a.m., named si shi (time period of si). Snakes start to leave their burrows.
Horse: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., named wu shi (time period of wu). The day is flourishing with the sun high above. Other animals are lying down for a rest while the unconstrained horse is still vigorous.
Sheep: 1 to 3 p.m., named wei shi (time period of wei). It was said that if sheep ate grass at this time, they would grow stronger.
Monkey: 3 to 5 p.m., named shen shi (time period of shen). Monkeys become lively.
Rooster: 5 to 7 p.m., named you shi (time period of you). Roosters return to their roost as it is dark;
Dog: 7 to 9 p.m., named shu shi (time period of shu). Dogs begin to carry out their duty to guard entrances.
Pig: 9 to 11 p.m., named hai shi (time period of hai). All is quiet and pigs are sleeping soundly.