Dragon boats are today boats that are used to celebrate the memory of Qu Yuan who by the end of the Zhou Dynasty (11th century - 256 B.C.) was a minister to the Emperor of the Eastern Zhou (770 - 221 B.C.) dynasty. He was known to be a wise and articulate man and was loved by the common people since he had spoken up against the rampant corruption that plagued the court but, thus also earned the envy and fear of other officials. By this time the area we today know as 'China' had fallen into a state of fragmentation and conflict called the Warring States period (475 - 221 B.C.). While the Zhou dynasty had ruled for several centuries, several other states or feudal domains tried to carve out their own kingdoms. Qu Yuans line was to avoid conflict and when he argued this, the other officials pressured the Emperor to have him removed from service. In exile, he traveled, taught and wrote for several years. Hearing that the Zhou had been defeated by the state of Qin, he fell into despair and threw himself into the Milou River. His last poem reads:
Upon hearing of this, fishermen rushed out in long boats, beating drums to scare the fish away, and throwing zong zi into the water to feed the fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan. In the modern 'Dragon Boat Festival' Qu Yuan in commemorated by 'Dragon Boats' races, the eating of zong zi and several other activities on the anniversary of his death; the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
See also: Dragon