Qu Yuan(340? -278 B.C.), a great politician and poet in the Warring States Period(476 BC - 221 BC), was born in an aristocratic family of the Chu State, one of seven powerful states at that time. He was the chief poet and representative of chuci(the Songs of Chu), a member of the ruling house, a stateman and diplomat.
In his youth, Qu Yuan had a brilliant official career and was made a court minister and at one time the Chu envoy to Qi (in Shantung), a great neighboring state. He carried out political reforms, set up strict legal system, and gave full opportunity to the able. Menaced by the threat of Qin State, Qu Yuan advocated the alliance with other states, fighting against Qin with combined force. The ruler of Qin, who viewed Chu State as the number one adversary, schemed to undermine the good administration of Chu under Qu Yuan. He sent his men to bribe the brother and favorite woman of the king of Chu, who were jealous of the authority of Qu Yuan. The two spoke ill behind of Qu Yuan to the king and the king took it for truth at last. In consequence Chu Yuan lost the king's favor and was dismissed from office eventually.
There were several ups and downs in his career - for after each banishment he was recalled to court, only to be again rebuffed and disgraced. In the meantime, his country was in danger. Failing to heed Qu Yuan's advice, the king of Chu foolishly went to a conference with the king of Qin (in Shensi), the most powerful military state in that period. He was held there by the Qin army and died in captivity. His son, the new king, instead of avenging his father's death, made a humiliating peace with his enemy. This, however, did not deter Qin's aggressive designs against Chu, and Qu Yuan, who had started his exile as a result of his political failure, lived long enough to see the capital of his state plundered and ruined by the conquering army of Qin in 278 B.C. At that time, Qu Yuan was already an old man of over sixty, and the fall of the Chu capital was the last blow to his patriotic hope.
On the breakthrough of Qin army into the capital of his country, Qu Yuan threw himself intoMiluo River in presentHunan Provinceand died with his country. At the news of his suicide, Chu people, who held him in high reverence for his integrity and nobleness, rushed to rescue by boats. But, they failed even to find his body. So they dropped rice balls into the river in order that the fish would not eat his body.