Commemorating Wu Zixu
Duan Wu Festival is a Chinese traditional festival that falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. With a history of more than 2000 years, Duan Wu Festival has its origins dating back to the period of the Warring States.
As history evolves, many traditional festivals become linked to legends which are then said to be the source of their origin. While there are many stories of its origin, the most popular one linked to Duan Wu Festival around Jiangsu, is that of the commemoration of Wu Zixu. Wu Zixu was from a military family in the State of Chu. Following his father and brother’s executive ordered by the King of Chu, Wu Zixu was forced to flee to the State of Wu, where he assisted the King of Wu to conquer the State of Chu.
Upon the death of the King of Chu, Wu Zixu excavated his tomb and flogged his corpse to avenge his father and brother’s death. After the King of Wu died, he was succeeded by his son Fuchai who later declared war on the state of Yue. Facing impending defeat, the King of Yue offered a truce which was accepted by King Fuchai. Wu Zixu objected to the truce, advising King Fuchai to annihilate the State of Yue instead. However his words were not heeded by the King, who had turned his trust to corrupt officials, leading to him ordering Wu Zixu’s death by suicide instead.
As a loyal subject, Wu Zixu did not fear death even after being slandered. “When I die, gouge out my eyes and hang them at the eastern gate of the capital, so that I can watch as the armies of Yue match in to destroy the State of Wu”, he said before he committed suicide. King Fuchai was furious when he was told of those words, and ordered Wu Zixu’s corpse to be placed in a leather bag and thrown into the river. Since then, Wu Zixu has been worshipped as ‘Tao Shen’ around Jiangsu, and many people takes Duan Wu Festival as a day to commemorate him.