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The season of summer is a time when the forces of “yang” are expelled and a heavy heat and humidity fill the air. It is also the time when snakes and insects are said to come out in large numbers and disease spreads quickly through the land. Hence, in the midsummer fifth lunar month, called the “Hundred Poisons Month,” eliminating harmful effects and preventing epidemics became important traditional activities. The “Start of the Fifth (Duanwu)” Festival takes place early in the fifth lunar month and originated with the mid-summer festival observed in the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, its main importance being to ward off evil spirits and drive away pestilence. In relation to various solar terms, rituals, and objects associated with it, the festival is known by different names, such as the “Fifth Month (Wuyue) Festival,” “Double Fifth (Chongwu) Festival,” “Middle of the Sky (Tianzhong) Festival,” “Midday (Wuri) Festival,” “Start of the Yang (Duanyang) Festival,” “Calamus Festival,” “Bathing Orchid (Yulan) Festival,” “Dragon Boat Festival” (by which it is most commonly known in English), “Rice Dumpling Festival,” and others.

This exhibition features a selection from the Museum collection related to the Dragon Boat Festival and is divided into five sections to present this festival that has become synonymous with summer. The first section, “Legends of Summer,” traces the origins behind the “poison moon of summer driving away evil spirits” and the spread of activities related to certain historical figures. The second section, “Stories of the Double Fifth,” sorts out traditional practices in the Qing dynasty related to the Dragon Boat Festival based on documents. The third one, “The Dragon Boat Collection,” traces cultural relics from the Qing dynasty palaces to reflect on the Dragon Boat Festival. The fourth section, “Joy Together in the Midday,” looks at the Qing court’s celebration of this festival with respect to the interaction of people and their environment at this time of cultivation and respite in the fifth lunar month. Finally, the fifth section, “The Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan,” illustrates customs across the strait in Taiwan from records of the Dragon Boat Festival.