dragon boat festival, often known as tuen ng festival or duan wu festival, is a traditional chinese festival held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the chinese calendar. it is also known as the double fifth. it has since been celebrated, in various ways, in other parts of east asia as well, most notably korea.
the exact origins of duan wu are unclear, but one traditional view holds that the festival memorializes the chinese poet qu yuan of the warring states period. he committed suicide by drowning himself in a river because he was disgusted by the corruption of the chu government. the local people, knowing him to be a good man, decided to throw food into the river to feed the fishes to prevent them from eating qu's body. they also sat on dragon boats, and tried to scare the fishes away by the thundering sound of drums aboard the boat and the fierce looking dragon-head in the front of the boat.
in the early years of the chinese republic, duan wu was also celebrated as "poets' day", due to qu yuan's status as china's first poet of personal renown.
today, people eat zongzi (the food originally intended to feed the fishes) and race dragon boats in memory of qu's dramatic death.