HOME >  Xiaogan Info  >  Culture  >  Custom


With a long history, Xiaogan has its location of county jurisdiction, Huaihe Town (thereafter known as Shoushan Town, Chengguan Town) beyond Fulin Lake, has rich humanistic culture connotation, and numerous Dragon Boat Festival customs handed down from age to age.

There are many sayings about origin of Dragon Boat Festival, including Xuqixieji of Wu Jun of the Southern Dynasty. Since then, the Dragon Boat Festival on May 5 has become the festival to remember Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan determined to make the motherland powerful and prosperous and realize national reunification. He strictly enforced reform, strove to be strong, and was ostracized. Finally he jumped into the river and committed suicide to serve the country with death. His such great spirit of patriotism is respected by people in all ages, so May 5 is deemed by people to be the festival to remember Qu Yuan, and many customs have formed thereby.


Chicken Ribs Collections of Zhuang Jiyu of the Southern Song Dynasty recorded: In Hubei, May 15 is the folk Dragon Boat Festival, and May 5 is the national Dragon Boat Festival. On the day of Dragon Boat Festival, Huaihe Town will hold grand recreational sports such as dragon boat races, which is known as “Dragon-boat racing”. People of all ages and both sexes of the whole town come to watch. Participants are boat teams from streets in all directions and surrounding regions. The racing starts from side of Dragon King Temple nearby west wharf of Huaihe to wharf of the South Gate through Shuifu Temple in north shore of Huaihe. Number of people in each boat is the same, dressing red cloth and green trousers, with one person beating the drum, and other persons paddling based on the drumming, acting in a unified way, and boats running as flying. There is a saying from urban area of Xiaogan: “Boats fly with the drumming.” Spectators ashore shout loudly to encourage. At the end, firecrackers are salvoed in the sky. The folk song Watching Dragon Boat in Dragon-Boat Racing popular in urban area of Xiaogan gave an account of specific route of boat race in urban area of Xiaogan, and reflected respect of Xiaogan people for the great patriotic poet, Qu Yuan:

The 15th day of May is expected to beat gongs and sound drums

Paddle dragon boat in dragon-boat racing to the Dragon Palace.

Qu Yuan goes ashore and the dragon boat picks him up to the native land.

The folk song Watching Dragon Boat popular in urban area of Xiaogan is an  vivid reflection of festive scene in dragon-boat racing:

When paddling dragon boats in Dragon Boat Festival, it is under crowded conditions and girls run after boys,

Boys in the nose paddle the bow oar, and girls feel like playing the piano in heart,

They shout loudly to encourage and make the parasol broken to bits!


According to another saying, origin of the Dragon Boat Festival is Tianzhong Festival. May 5 is on the threshold of wheat harvest season, so recreational activities are arranged for rest and reorganization of people’s energy, and it is also known as Tianzhong Festival (see Book of Sui – Geographical Works). There was the custom of “having a bath” on May 5 in ancient times, but it afterwards developed into swimming in rives and lakes on Dragon Boat Festival. During the times of Han-wei, large-scale swimming contest was held in Qiantang River on Dragon Boat Festival. Cao Zan of Tang dynasty could “change fantastically” (see Common Knowledge about Chinese History – Ancient Sports) in water, thus it can be seen that the custom of swimming existed in times of Han-wei. Recreational sports such as dragon boat race and swimming on Dragon Boat Festival in ancient times were held in sunny weather, so it is also known as Duanyang Festival. In custom of Xiaogan, the day of folk Dragon Boat Festival was the beginning of swimming throughout the year. Common people of urban area in Xiaogan beside rivers and lakes all have the hobby of playing with water. On that day, teenagers and even children of urban area come to Huaihe enthusiastically and jump into the river one after another to show their skills. The west wharf is the water area for their competition. Children’s song Daguqiu popular in urban area of Xiaogan gives an vivid description about swimming skills and funs of Children:


Swim on folk Dragon Boat Festival,Jump into the river with a rush to show your skills.

Thus it can be seen that dragon-boat racing and swimming on Dragon Boat Festival has rich culture connotation and is an recreational sport of national fitness objectively.


Dragon Boat Festival in ancient times is also known as “Daughter’s Festival”, just as recorded in Emperor Jing Scenery Summary. Urban area of Xiaogan further develops such customs into numerous more interesting customs. Paper-cut and embroidery both have a long history. Paper-cutting style in Xiaogan is sui generis, with full, vivid, naive, simple and honest designs; ingenious, rounded and beautifully wrought way of cutting; auspicious decorative patterns, unique modeling, and skillful in freehand brushwork, being a cluster of stone flower in Chinese art and literary circles. Embroidery art in Xiaogan absorbs characteristics of Hunan embroidery and Suzhou embroidery, with full-bodied local flavor. The hue is lucid and lively, and shiny; the composition takes flowers as face and basal leaf as line, crude and refined, circular and square, with extensive patterns. Girls in Xiaogan have learned needlework since childhood, thus many girls are skilled in both sewing and paper cutting and embroidery. On the day of folk Dragon Boat Festival, girls wear new clothes, new shoes and new trousers, perfume satchel, gardenia on beautiful hair, and get dressed neatly. Patters of flowers and birds or auspicious patters embroidered with multicolored silk are on perfume satchel, which is filled with realgar, ultimate segments of folium artemisiae argyi, atractylodes lancea, borneol, and agastache. It is said that it can drive away evil and avoid epidemic disease. They go to the Huaihe to watch dragon-boat racing in groups. Many girls embroider perfume satchel before Dragon Boat Festival to prepare to give their sweetheart on that day.         

The ditty Embroidering Perfume Satchel popular in urban area of Xiaogan expresses pure love of girls and represents customs of Dragon Boat Festival:


Embroider a perfume satchel with knitting wool in May,

Make it as big as cooper cash and give to the sweetheart.

Five spices are filled in the perfume satchel, with sharply contrasted red, yellow, white and black.

Embroider flowers with colorless velvet, which is fragrant day and night.

In addition, those girls also play on Huaihe during white water rafting in groups. Numerous customs on Dragon Boat Festival make people extremely happy.


Thus it can be seen that Dragon Boat Festival is also a good day for appointment and showing high skills in needlework.


Dragon Boat Festival is also the festival of epidemic prevention. As recorded in Jinchu Fasti: pick moxa and acorus calamus before chickens heralding the break of day on May 5 in the Southern dynasty to hang on the house door to disinfect and prevent disasters. Besides the custom, in urban area of Xiaogan, people also gather herbs in the countryside in the morning of national Dragon Boat Festival, and buy disinfectants in season in herbal medicine shops, such as realgar, angelica, etc. At night, they also burn mugwort to smoke and kill mosquitoes. According to folklore in Xiaogan: early in the morning on May 5, Chang’e filled the world with powder made by the white rabbit to make mugwort attached with medicine; medicinal value of mugwort gathered by people before dew becoming dry early in the morning before sunrise is the highest. Mugwort contains volatile aromatic oil, which makes injurious insects afraid. In addition, it also has other medicinal values, as recorded in Unreliable Talk of Zhou Mi of Song dynasty. Between the national and folk Dragon Boat Festival, people will also have garlic, and hang garlic with peduncle on door eaves, which is said to have the function of disinfection, epidemic prevention and plague removal. There is a moving legend in urban area of Xiaogan: the seventh fairy went up to heaven 100 days after getting married with Dong Yong, but anxious about Dong Yong and the child every day, Chang’e accompanied here to take a walk in the imperial garden to make her relieve from sorrow, discovering elliptic rare flowers formed by snow-white cingulum, with flat leaves and green color, and faint scent and spicy odor. Chang’e said they are rare flowers able to prevent epidemic situation and cure diseases, referred to as garlic. The seventh fairy then asked for several stems and threw to the direction of Xiaogan. Thereafter, garlic was widely planted in Xiaogan, and the custom of having garlic on Dragon Boat Festival gradually formed. Garlic has many medicinal values, and functions of “dispelling coldness and dampness, keeping away yin pathogen, and killing poison gas, etc” (see Compendium of Materia Medica). The perfume satchel is filled with realgar, ultimate segments of folium artemisiae argyi, atractylodes lancea, borneol, and agastache, etc, and has the function of killing germs, eliminating bromidrosis, and refreshing. As said in folklores of Xiaogan, they are customs of epidemic prevention on Dragon Boat Festival in urban area in Xiaogan.

Zongzi is traditional cate of the Dragon Boat Festival. Tradition has it that making zongzi on the Dragon Boat Festival is to remember Qu Yuan, the great patriotic poet, as recorded in Beautiful Dream Tokyo of Song dynasty. For origin of the Dragon Boat Festival, Kuaiji region in Zhejiang thought it to be a festival in memory of Cao E (refer to Cultural Connotation of Folk Customs of Dragon Boat Festival with Composite Commemorative Significance contained in Zhengzhou Evening News on June 28, 1981). Respecting the elderly and loving the children is an excellent quality of our nation. The story of Cao E is widely circulated on the civilian level. Xiaogan is the hometown of Dong Yong, and of all virtues, filial piety is the most important. Therefore, Huaihe Town is also known as Shoushan Town. Since urban area of Xiaogan ha profound filial piety culture deposits, the urban area also has the custom of “respecting the elderly with zongzi” besides sacrificing Qu Yuan with zongzi. Women will prepare zongzi on national Dragon Boat Festival to visit the parent home and celebrate the festival together with them. Unmarried son-in-law will prepare zongzi and fresh pork as gifts to present to future father-in-law and mother-in-law and other elders of the bride’s side. In addition, there is also the custom of presenting zongzi to relatives and neighbors. “Taking care of one’s own children first and extending the same care to the others’ children”, there is also the custom of “loving the children” in urban area of Xiaogan. During the Dragon Boat Festival, both the rich and poor will prepare zongzi for their children. Zizania aquatica (also known as mushroom) is aquatic vegetable specially produced in China and rich in Huxiang, Xiaogan. According to The Zizania Aquatica of Xu Jing of Ming dynasty, urban area of Xiaogan takes high-quality sticky rice rich locally wrapped with zizania aquatica leaves as zongzi, known as zizania aquatica zongzi. On every Dragon Boat Festival, there is the custom of having zongzi in all families in urban area of Xiaogan. Zizania aquatica zongzi in plates are green and pleasing to the eye, white as a jade after stripped off, fragrant, sweet and tasty when eating, and with unique flavor. It is really the whole family having zongzi filled with human affection.