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The Dragon Boat Festival heralding the arrival of summer is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, around the end of May, and again is not a public holiday. It is dedicated to the dragon, symbolising the bringer

of rain to whom the farmers turn for help at times of drought; the dragon is also supposed to drive out the evil spirits from the river in which the revered statesman and poet Qu Yuan was drowned long ago by those who plotted against him, since when Qu has been venerated by the Chinese people as a figure symbolising human dignity and honour. Dragon boat races are staged every year to commemorate this event, which is accompanied by the eating of “zongzi”, sweet rice cakes wrapped in bamboo leaves.

The Moon Festival, also known as the mid-autumn festival, is always celebrated in various parts of the country on the 15th day of the eighth month of lunar calendar and is a time when family gatherings eat “moon cakes”, with rich fillings of ground sesame and lotus seeds or dates.

In Wuxi in Jiangsu Province the inhabitants admire the reflection of the full moon in Lake Taihu and enjoy all kinds of entertainments, while local specialities are served on board pleasure boats and there are firework displays.

The festival honouring ancestors, the day of purity and light, usually falls in early April. People in the rural areas traditionally sweep the graves of their ancestors, making them offerings of food and drink and burning paper creations.

There are many other popular festivals based on the ancient legends that have been handed down from generation to generation. These and the other major festivals are covered in greater detail in the section on Events.

China’s many national minorities have retained their own original traditions and festivals.

These too are based on the lunar calendar.

Every year around the middle of April (usually between the 13th and 15th) the Dai peoples in the autonomous district of Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province hold the water festival to wash away the dirt, sorrows and demons of the old year. During the three days of festivities they hold dragon boat races and a market. Everyone gets splashed with water, a ritual that even foreign visitors cannot escape; in fact, the wetter you get, the better luck you will have in the coming year.

The Tibetans celebrate their bathing festival in seven clear starlit nights between late summer and early autumn. They stage games and bathe in the river.

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