端午节 (Duān Wǔ Jié) or the Dragon Boat Festival is a popular festival celebrated in June.
The tradition of eating 粽子 (zòngzi) is based on a true story of 屈原 (Qū Yuán), a Chinese poet and minister of the Chu state during the Warring States period. He was an outspoken patriot who helped the Emperor fight against corruption and brought prosperity to the country.
However, the royals and court officials he offended smeared his name until the Emperor lost trust in 屈原 and exiled him to the South. To show his love and passion for his country, he wrote many enduring poems such as 离骚 (Lí Sāo, The Lament), (click to read translation of Lí Sāo), "天問 (Tiān Wèn, Heaven Asks), and 九歌 (Jiǔ Gē, Nine Songs).
During his exile, he saw the gradual decline of the Chu State and its ultimate defeat by the strong Qin State. He was so depressed that he ended his life by flinging himself into the Miluo River holding a big stone. On hearing of 屈原's death, all the local people nearby were in great distress. Fishermen searched for his body by sailing their boats down the river and other people threw food such as eggs and 粽子 into the river to stave off the hungry fish from destroying 屈原's body.
Because 屈原 died on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, people decided to commemorate him on that day every year. Dragon boat racing and eating 粽子 have become the central customs of the festival. For two thousand years, 屈原's patriotic spirit has influenced numerous people and he remains revered by the people from all over the world. Now his’s spirit has become a symbol of the noble and persevering spirit of the Chinese people.