Qu was a loyal statesman and a patriotic poet in Chu, a major state in the Warring States Period (475 B.C.-221 B.C.). He was unjustly exiled by the king of Chu, who disregarded Qu’s policy advice. Heartbroken by the news of rivaling forces seizing Chu’s capital, Qu eventually chose to end his life, by plunging himself into the river of Miluo clutching a heavy stone.
Hearing Qu’s tragic death, local people rushed to boats to search for his body. Over time, this practice evolved into a millennia-old tradition of dragon boat racing in memory of the poet.
Throughout his lifetime, Qu wrote a great number of poems expressing his love and concern for his country and people. Perhaps his most famous line is "Long as the way is, I will keep on searching high and low," which embodies the poet’s ceaseless spirit of exploration.
The famous verse has been recited by generations of Chinese people, including President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.
In 2016, Xi quoted the line in his address at a ceremony marking the 95th founding anniversary of the CPC, calling on all Party members to preserve the Party’s tradition of struggle and have the courage to change and innovate in the continuing test of history.
This is an example of the president’s quoting of Qu’s impassioned verses, which have inspired the entire Party and Chinese people of all ethnic groups to put the ancient poet’s legacy into action and brave challenges through reform and innovation.
The sense of mission and the endeavors to surmount all difficulties for achieving the goal can be seen in various fields.
For example, regarding China’s reform, Xi called on people to "act with courage while moving forward with steady steps," to push reform forward on the right track.
In the battle against poverty, the Chinese leader led the Party and the people to forge ahead against all odds and manage to lift the remaining 98.99 million rural poor people out of poverty in about eight years.
To tackle the bottlenecks in scientific and technological innovation, Xi called for making breakthroughs in core technologies in key fields. Through a decade of efforts, China ranked 11th overall in the Global Innovation Index 2022, moving up 23 places from its ranking in the 2012 edition of the index.
On the economic front, Xi has led the country in taking the initiative to shift from high-speed to high-quality development. And his exploration of the country’s economic development has paid off. In 2022, China’s per capita GDP was 12,741 U.S. dollars, nearing the level of high-income countries.
"The spirit of Qu Yuan not only exerts a profound influence on China’s past, but also exemplifies great value for the country’s present," said Zheng Jiaming, a professor at the College of History and Culture at Hunan Normal University. "It is also universal and can last forever."
Xi also invoked Qu’s words when addressing a global audience. At the CPC and World Political Parties Summit in 2021, he said that with national rejuvenation and the progress of humanity in mind, the CPC will lead all the Chinese to "search high and low" and work with determination to create an even better future for all.