Home News Express Historical and Cultural cities Shanghai Guide Photos & Videos Editors' Picks
Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon boat races are one of China's oldest traditions, dating back over 2,500 years, and in the last decades the popularity has spread around the world, with the sport well established in places as far flung as Singapore, Canada, and Australia.

Although you can paddle a dragon boat any time of the year, the true focus of the sport is the Dragon Boat festival itself, complete with its own special foods and legendary origins.

History of Dragon Boat Festival

The first dragon boat race supposedly was inspired by Qu Yuan, one of China's earliest great poets. During Qu Yuan's time, China was divided into a dozen feuding principalities. An official in one of them, Qu was distressed by the misrule his state endured, and feared that it would be easy prey for its more powerful rivals. He resigned his office and wrote a long poetic lament before drowning himself. Local fishermen saw him plunge into the lake and raced out in their boats to try to rescue him. Although they were too late, this was the beginning of the tradition of dragon boat racing.

Festival in Nanjing

Nanjing is home to one of the most dynamic dragon boat festivals in China. In recent years, many companies and universities in the city have begun sponsoring and organizing teams - even training all year to prepare for May's race! The races are held on a Saturday in May in Mochou Lake Park in the heart of Nanjing. The lake is a beautiful setting for the races - rimmed by trees and traditional pavilions, the reflections of Nanjing's skyscrapers glitter in the water.

On the day of the race, the park is festooned with flags and decorations and crowds of people gather on the shore to watch the races. Every year almost 30 teams compete, the heats, finals, and semi finals lasting from morning till late afternoon. The dragon boats get their name from their long shape, with a carved dragon head at their prow, and the stern trailing off into a long dragon's tail. They are paddled by teams of around 10, each person with one oar, their pace set by the pounding of a huge drum in the boat. The race is a short, straight, intense sprint across the lake, while the rhythmic thuds of the drums echo across the water.

The dragon boat festival even has its own food, rice dumplings flavored with nuts, wrapped up inside bamboo leaves. Called zong-zi, these too are linked to the legend of Qu Yuan. Supposedly the fishermen threw the dumplings into the water to prevent fish from eating the drowned poet's corpse until they could find his body and give it an honorable burial. Despite these rather grisly origins, zong-zi are a tasty snack, especially lakeside picnic while watching the races!

(Source: jstour.com)

Editor: Feng Hui

Key Words

Tea   West Lake   

Temple      Su Dongpo 


Fans   Embroidery


| About us | E-mail | Contact |
Constructed by Chinadaily.com.cn
Copyright 2009 Ministry of Culture, P.R.China. All rights reserved