Today Chinese communities throughout the world will be holding dragon boat races to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. The festivals honors the patriot poet Chu Yuan who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River in a protest of the political injustice during the third century.
The dragon boat is traditionally a long thin canoe type boat powered by the people who paddle onboard. Boats are decorated with distinctive Chinese dragon heads and tails and the boats carry a drum to lead the crew. The sport originated in China over 2,000 years ago and is now practiced all around the world.
In the East, the Dragon Boat Festival is better known as the Duanwu Festival and is celebrated each year on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar. If you happen to be in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and other areas of Asia you can witness a dragon boat race for yourself. Here are just a few of the events taking place today:
Beijing, China – The capital of China, Beijing, celebrates the Dragon Boat Festival in style with large-scale races. China has now made the day a national holiday and the festival is hailed as a great opportunity for the Chinese to return to their roots and celebrate.
Hong Kong – The Dragon Boat Festival was first held in 1976 in Hong Kong and there are now over 100 teams that will come from around the world to race on the Shing Mun River at Sha Tin. The locals race first then the international crews of up to 22 paddlers take to the waters.
Malacca, Malaysia – The Malaysian Dragon Boat Association has celebrated the festival for the last 26 years to mark Chinese culture and spirit and forms part of the week-long Malacca River Festival 2009.
The poet Qu Yuan is a national hero and drowned himself in the Mi Lo River, in the south of China, in 277BC as a protest against a corrupt government. Legend says that as the locals tried to rescue him they beat drums and threw dumplings into the river to prevent fish from eating him. People now eat rice-and-meat dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves during the festival and many go swimming. Some may even dip their hands in the water as a symbolic gesture of trying to save Qu Yuan.
By Julie Bowman