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Chinese Festivals : Duanwu

china tourists-Oct-2020

Hello. If you are an old, seasoned China business hand, you will be well versed with the various festivals and holidays that fall here. And well prepared in advance. That preparation will vary of course, depending on your location and your type of business.

For example, if you are living in one of the bigger cities, there may not be much impact. If in a small region, then maybe many things close down for 3 days. If your business is centred around consumer goods, especially FMG, foodstuffs, beverage etc and located in a traditionally “hot” tourism destination, then maybe this is one of your busier times.

Particularly these past 2 years when Chinese are restricted from international travel so are using these festivals and holidays to get to know their own country. Generally speaking unless you thrive on bumper to bumper, shoulder to shoulder crushes on public transport, shopping malls, scenic spots, restaurants and footpaths, these are not the best time to travel in China.

The Duanwu Festival

There is a tonne, and then some, information about the Duanwu Festival in China on line. But, if time is tight, here is a very, as in extremely, brief overview. Duanwu is a lunar festival. Meaning it is a little bit like European Easter. Falls at different times each year in the solar or Gregorian calendar. So, you are going to need a Chinese calendar if you want to plan a strategy around it.

It dates back 3 or 400 years BC and is centred around a celebrated Poet and ranking Government official. At some point in his career he found himself offside with current thinking and banished from the city. Some years later an opposing army sacked his city. Our poet was so distraught that he threw himself into a river.

Local fisherman took to their boats to search for him or his body. Unsuccessfully. So the local people began throwing food into the river hoping that the creatures living there in would not feed on the poets body. We have not found any record as to if the body was ever eventually recovered.

Dragon Boat Racing

One of the more popular and well known activities for Duanwu festival is dragon boat racing. It is suggested this may be a nod to the efforts of the local fisherman to retrieve the poets body. Dragons of course, being fearsome, fearless creatures would scare away any demons or unwanted spirits from taking the poets soul.


This probably needs no introduction, but just in case, here goes. Zhonzi are made from sweet, sticky rice shaped into either a pillow, or more commonly, pyramid. Some told us this varies between north and south China? Traditionally they contain 3, 4, or more dates and are wrapped in bamboo leaves. Today, fillings may also consists of ground meat, fish, or red bean paste. To eat, steam for 3 to 5 minutes, peel off the bamboo and enjoy. Most people find them appetising and enjoyable but for a few it appears to be an acquired taste. One small tip: watch out some Zongzi use non pitted dates – still have stones – which have been known to break teeth.

This year, Duanwu festival in China fell over the last weekend, 12th, 13th and 14th so if you found some of your suppliers or colleagues a little slow in replying- you know why! Next year, 2022 it falls on Friday, June 3rd with the following 2 days also a holiday, You may want to make a not of that in your planner.

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