Honoring Qu Yuan
Qu Yuan (343–278 BC), who was named Ping, but styled himself Yuan, was a Chu State official in the Warring States period. He was the earliest famous poet in China.
When the Chu capital fell the patriotic poet drowned himself in the Miluo River. The local people were said to have paddled out on boats, either to scare the fish away or to retrieve his body. The dragon boat races represent the attempts to rescue and recover the body of Qu Yuan. This is said to be the origin of dragon boat racing.
Combined with Dragon Totem Day
The custom of dragon boat races probably began in southern China, where the 5th day of the 5th lunar month was a totem ceremony. The dragon was the main symbol on the totem, because the Chinese are said to be the sons of the dragon. They also made dragon-like canoes.
Later Chinese connected this custom with Dragon Boat Festival, known as Duanwu Festival, is a traditional and statutory holiday in China, occurring on the 5th day of the 5th month of China’s lunar calendar. The Chinese will have a day off that day.
The main customs of the celebration include eating rice dumplings, hanging calamus, Chinese mugwort, smoked herbs, and Chinese Angelica; drinking Realgar wine, and racing dragon boats. Dragon boat racing is the most popular tradition.
Dragon Boat Racing Today
Now dragon boat racing is an international event. This sport is popular in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. You will find that dragon boat races are not just held around the Dragon Boat Festival anymore. Check our Event page to find a Dragon Boat Festival near you.