History of Dragon Boats

Origin of Dragon Boating

Qu Yuan was an ancient Chinese statesman in the southern state of Chu from 475 – 221 BC and was known for his extreme political loyalty and integrity. After Chu fell under the malicious influence of corrupt ministers, Qu was banished from his state by the cruel king. In exile, Qu wrote some of the greatest poems in Chinese literature which expressed his love for his state, and his concern for its future.

When Qu learned that Warring State, a neighbouring territory had plans to invade, Qu treaded into the Miluo River, bound himself to a rock and committed ritual suicide to show his opposition towards the military turmoil.

After learning about the death of Qu, the community of the State of Chu hurried out into the water in their fishing boats and tried desperately to save Qu Yuan. In anguish, they beat drums, splashed water with their paddles, and sprinkled rice dumplings into the water to keep the fish and evil spirits away from Qu’s body.

In China, generations of people, year after year commemorate Qu Yuan by holding an annual boat race on the day of his death; the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar. The day is known as Duen Ng Festival in Cantonese, and Duan wu Festival in Mandarin. Traditionally, these boats are very long and narrow, canoe-style vessels, ornamented with carved and brightly painted dragon heads and tails. These boats are signified as strong rulers of rivers and seas and dominate the clouds and rains of heaven. The ritual is also meant to prevent tragedy and encourage rainfall to ensure good harvests.

Dragon Boat Racing: The world’s fastest growing water sport

Today, dragon boat racing is a global sport. People all over the world are embracing the sport like never before! Dragon boat regattas now attract a wide range of recreational and competitive teams which represent clubs, communities, corporations, and nations. There’s even a movement to have dragon boat racing become an Olympic sport!

What is a dragon boat?

A dragon boat is a long, narrow, 41 foot wooden boat that is powered by a team of 20 paddlers (not rowers), a drummer and a steersperson. The boats are decorated with traditional coloured dragon scales on either side of the boat, a dragon head and a tail. In the boat, there are 10 seats to hold the paddlers, a drum, a drummer’s seat and a steering oar. The team members use light paddles (not oars) to propel the boat. The drummer sets the rhythm to ensure the paddlers’ strokes are in synch and the steersperson ensures that the boat stays in its designated lane. The races at the Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival take place on Ramsey Lake and consist of 500m heats with five teams competing at a time.