Dragon Boat Festival

This month we visit the famous Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan. This is the day when dragon boat races are held on the rivers and lakes. However, in addition to the boat races there are many other traditions, rituals and special food for this particular festival. What's even more interesting is the tale behind the origin of the festival.

The Dragon Boat Festival is a commemoration of the patriotic scholar, poet, and statesman Cyu Yuan (circa. 340 – 277 B.C.), who lived during in the Warring States Period of ancient China. During this turbulent period, regional warlords annexed smaller states around them to consolidate their rule. The seven most powerful warlords called themselves kings and tried every means to overtake and conquer one another. Cyu Yuan served the Chu state. Among the seven states, the Chu and the Cin later became the two strongest. Cyu Yuan was originally highly favored by the Chu King, who later distanced himself from Cyu Yuan because of vilifications from Cyu Yuan's political enemies. Cyu Yuan was then exiled. When the capital of Chu was captured by Cin's army, Cyu Yuan threw himself into the Miluo River to end his life and to show loyalty to his own political beliefs and also to the Chu king, despite his exile.

After Cyu Yuan's death, the common people organized search parties, rowing up and down the river to find his body. The women wrapped rice inside leaves to throw into the river in the hope of keeping the fish and shrimps from eating Cyu Yuan's corpse. This is the origin of the dragon boat race, while the rice balls wrapped in leaves became the festive dumpling snack called Zongzih. Today people still hold dragon boat races and eat Zongzih during the Dragon Boat Festival. More than just a traditional festive activity, today the dragon boat race has become an international sports event, with teams from around the world coming to Taiwan for the races every year. It is an event of intense excitement, with the colorfully decorated dragon boats, the cheering of the crowd, and the wild beating of the drums to spur the rowers on.

Zongzih, the festive snack, has nowadays become very common and popular with all Taiwanese. There are stalls or shops selling all kinds of Zongzih on the streets of Taiwan and the dumplings come in all kinds of shapes and flavors. Even the leaves that are used differ greatly. These different flavors, shapes and wrappings are a perfect reflection of the available ingredients and the palates of the people in the specific region. The choices of Zongzih alone are dazzling enough, let alone the different sauces that go with different kinds of Zongzih.

In addition to Zongzih and dragon boat races, there are many other interesting customs during this festival. People hang bouquets made of mugwort, sword-like iris leaves and banyan twigs on both sides of the entrance to their home. In the old days, mosquitoes, flies and many other insects multiplied with the summer heat, which begins to intensify at this time of the year. Consequently the risk of many infectious diseases became greater. Mugwort is considered to possess medicinal effects; the banyan twigs symbolize good health, while the sword-like iris leaves are considered to be able to expel evil spirits. Another very popular custom during the festival is fragrance sachets –colorful cloth sachets in various shapes such as animals, fruits, plants, lucky Chinese symbols and historical or imaginary characters. Inside the sachet is a fragrant powder made of various kinds of Chinese herbs. The sachets were originally regarded as amulets that worked to drive away evil spirits as well as expelling commonly seen pests and vermin in the heat of high summer. Nowadays, however, they are worn mostly for their decorative value.

In addition to Zongzih, Taiwan boasts many other festive snacks and cuisines. Another famous example is the rice dumplings eaten during the Lantern Festival and the winter solstice. There are two names for the rice dumplings: during the Lantern Festival, they are called Yuansiao while on the winter solstice, they are known as Tangyuan.

According to Taiwanese folklore, eating Tangyuan on the winter solstice symbolizes that one has become one year older. This may not sound very nice to some people, especially for ladies who want to stay young. Like Zongzih, the rice dumpling has become a popular snack with Taiwanese people and there are many kinds of Tang Yuan with different flavors for you to sample when visiting Taiwan.

Unlike Zongzih and rice dumplings, moon cakes remain a festive snack eaten only during the Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Moon Festival). Moon cakes symbolize the fullness of life, just like the full moon people admire during the Moon Festival. What's noteworthy, however, is that moon cakes are probably one of the most famous of the local Taiwanese snacks among foreigners. Moon cakes are so famous and popular that even international companies like Starbucks and Haagen-Dazs have started to make and provide moon cakes for their customers exclusively in Taiwan during the Moon Festival period. Although most people usually associate moon cakes with sweet snacks or dessert, there are also moon cakes with savory stuffings.

In addition to all these festive foods, one can easily find many different snacks here in Taiwan. Foreigners who have visited Taiwan know that it is indeed a culinary heaven which offers a wide range of delicious foods to satisfy all palates.

When it comes to food in Taiwan, it is hard to omit beef noodles. Beef noodles can be found everywhere in Taiwan, from street-side stalls to fine restaurants and even 5-star hotels, and the varieties are very plentiful. Spicy hot pot is another special cuisine which is a must-try for those who enjoy hot and spicy food. The spicy hot pot soup is simmered with herbs, Chinese medicine and spices. It is usually called “red soup” because of its color. A wide range of different ingredients such as fresh vegetables, mushrooms, beef, mutton, pork and seafood are displayed for you to choose from. Don't be afraid to experiment – simply mix and match anything you fancy, dip the ingredients into the hot pot soup to cook them and then it's time to enjoy. For those who prefer milder flavored food, there is “white soup”, which is made with clear stock. Or you can go for Yuanyang pot, which consists of both red and white soup so everyone can find a taste to his or her own liking.

If one wants to quickly and cheaply sample some of Taiwan's local foods, probably the easiest way is to go to any of Taiwan's night markets to sample snacks such as oyster noodles, oyster omelet, pan-friend radish cakes, cuttlefish thick soup, meat thick soup, deep-fried chicken fillet, oil sticks, meat balls, fish ball soup and many other choices. For those who are more daring and adventurous, stinky tofu is a must-try. Its name is derived from its unique smell, which is the result of the tofu's fermentation. Its smell may be unpleasant to some, but is considered almost addictive to its fans. In the summertime the various cooling drinks found at the night markets are particularly popular: pearl milk tea, freshly squeezed juices, ice smoothies, and crushed ice topped with fruit and syrup are delicious and very reasonably priced.


There is still time enough for you to catch the exciting dragon boat races, sample several Zongzih, and then stroll to the nearby open-air night market for a refreshing drink and maybe some more delicious snacks. So why not book your ticket to Taiwan now?


Lovely Lotus Flower Fields

Little Streets and Small Alleys

Noodles, Buns, and Dumplings

Shin Kong Chao Feng Resort Ranch

Hao Bu Hao Chi?

Taitung by the sea

Sleep, Eat, and Buy Options in Alishan’s North Sector

Mt. Guanyin

A Night at the Market

Alishan North

Green and Sleepy

Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail

Taiwan and Hotpot

Jinyue Indigenous Village

Seven Stars Mountain

DaMorLee Leisure Farm

Quick Trip to Taipei

Up into the High Mountains

Romantic Evenings in Kaohsiung

Railways to Bikeways

Xiang Luo Lei Restaurant

Land Ho! Penghu – Beckoning You

The Guanshan Town Circle Bicycle Path

The Heart of Hualien

Dageeli Tribe Restaurant

Coastal Hualien

Ximending (West Gate District)

Bunun Hunters Restaurant

Hello Hualien!

The Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area

Tianwei Highway Garden

Prowlin’ in Maolin

Strawberry Town

The Maolin National Scenic Area

Stairways to the Sky

Pedaling Along

Daluan Restaurant

Around the Northern Tip

Hats and Mats

Orange Country

Travel Taiwan, Film Taiwan!

A Place to Relax

Through the Grapevine

The Tatami of Dongshi


Lion’s Head Mountain and Beipu

Exploring the Valley of the Glowing Sky

Fruit of the Angels

Its Cake Culture

The Amazing Bamboo

Yilan’s Kumquats

Lovely Nanzhuang

The Sea of Flowers in Xinshe Festival

Healthful Eating and Delicious Flavors

The Black King Kong of Yuanchang

From Art Brush to Beauty Brush

A Strange Fruit

The Sound of Drums

Zuoying Wannian Folklore Festival

The Hot Springs of Beitou

Simakusi (Smangus)


Water Frolics

Overnighting on the Northeast Coast

Giant Buddha, Old Temples, and Glass Art

Mt. Beidawu

The Most Joyous Thing in the World is Music

Taiwan Fun on the Tropic of Cancer

FUN WITH CHINESE - Men in the Fields during Rain

NK 101 Tea @ Style

Taitung Backpack Bus Trip

The Life of Pi

Taipei’s East District Where the Art of Shopping Is Serious Business

Spring Onion Country Yilan's Sanxing Township Offers Ideal Conditions for Cultivating Scallions

Sandy Beaches, Rocky Coastline, Quiet Country A Whirlwind Tour Round Hengchun Peninsula

What Happened at Wushe

Confucius Day

Keeping It in the Family: I Wan Jan Puppet Theater

Taiwan Has a Unique Culture

Welcoming the Year of the Rabbit and the ROC's 100 Years

All the Flowers You Can Dream Of

Music from the Marshland

Pristine Scenes

Fierce Faces

Following the Tide

A Wonderful World Out There

Off to the Beach and the Rocks

Taiwan’s Easy Rider Goes Into the Wild


Taipei Int'l Flora Expo




Taiwan's Ultra Man Going Beyond Extreme

Rice by Any Other Name

Taiwan is Beautiful!


Slate Houses and Mud Rivers

From Fir Formosa

Touring Kaohsiung by KMART


Taoyuan HSR Station

Taking Taiwan's Slow Train

Bus Trip to Central Taiwan

Establishing a Beautiful Taiwan

High Mountain Ecology

Exploring High Mountain HighsTaiwan at Her Peaks

Cultural Tourism in Taiwan:What's in It for You?

Getting to Know Taiwan's Indigenous Cultures

Leaving Stress Behind

Taiwan! "Feel Good" Country

Exploring Taiwan's Rural Side

Aboriginal Tribes & Festivals

The Famous Lantern Festival in Taiwan

Night Markets in Taiwan

Great Arts, Culinary Exhibitions and Events in Taiwan's National Palace Museum and Other Places

Mountains in Taiwan

Water Fun in Taiwan

Taiwanese Arts, Arts Festivals and Interesting Artifacts

"Taiwan's Ghost Festival and Other Religious Events"

Dragon Boat Festival

City: The Tallest Building Taipei 101 & Kaohsiung's Love River

National Scenic Area (IV)-Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, Penghu National Scenic Area, Matsu National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (III)-East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, East Coast National Scenic Area, Maolin National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (II)-Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, Alishan National Scenic Area, Southwest Coast National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (I)-North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area

Offshore Islands- Penghu、Kinmen National Park、Matzu、Green Island(Lyudao)、Orchid Island(Lanyu)

Eastern Taiwan- Taroko National Park、East Rift Valley、Rueisuei & Hongye、Jhihben

Southern Taiwan- Alishan、Tainan、Kaohsiung、Dapeng Bay & Little Liouciou、Kenting National Park

Central Taiwan- Miaoli、Taichung、Changhua、Nantou、Yushan National Park

Northern Taiwan -Taipei City、Yangmingshan & Beitou、Danshuei、Wulai、Jioufen & Jinguashih、Yilan、Taoyuan & Hsinchu