Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the Dragon Boat Festival, otherwise called Duanwu Jie, which starts on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The exciting three-day event has happened for more than 2,000 years, and 10 years back was inscribed on UNESCO’s list representing the immaterial cultural legacy of mankind.
The festival’s practice of racing boats started from stories of individuals paddling on China’s Miluo River to attempt and rescue the ancient poet Qu Yuan from drowning during the third century B.C. From that point forward, the races have developed in prevalence and spread all through the world.
The boats are traditionally made of teak wood and can range up to 100 feet long, pleasing upwards of 80 rowers. Boats are usually designed with dragon heads at the bow and scaly tails at the stern. A sacred ritual is held before the race when the eyes are painted on, which is said to “bring the boat to life.” During the race, a drummer sits in the front of each boat, helping the rowers to work as one.
Families clean their homes and property in anticipation of the festival, hanging bunches of mugwort and calamus on doors to ward off misfortune and ailment. Beside the race itself, there are many time-honored traditions related with the festival: eating sticky rice dumplings enveloped by lotus leaves, called zongzi; drinking wine made with the ruby-colored crystal realgar; and wearing “perfume pouches,” colorful silk bags loaded up with fragrant medicinal herbs.