News and Travel Editor
Dragon Boat Festival takes place on the 5th Day of the 5th Lunar Month, which this year falls on Thursday 9th June. Here are 10 facts that teach you everything you need to know to understand this colourful and exciting festival.
- Dragon boat racing has been in China for over 2,000 years. The practice is believed to have started around the time of the first Olympic games.
- A drummer or a caller guides the rhythm of the paddlers.
- There are dragon boat clubs in over 60 countries. The organisation that governs international competition is called the International Dragon Boat Federation.
- Dragon Boat races are usually 500 meters long, but can vary from 250m to marathon length!
- The sport of dragon boat racing celebrates the life and death of Chinese poet Qu Yuan. He was banished after opposing an alliance the king wanted to enter into, and eventually committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth month of Chinese Lunar character. This is why the festival is always held on this day!
- Dragon boat races are inspired by how the villagers tried to recover Qu Yuan’s body by paddling out on boats.
- After Qu Yuan’s death, the local people threw rice into the river to keep the fish from eating his body. Later, they threw rice wrapped in reeds (to prevent the fish eating it) into the river. This is the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival delicacy called zongzi, glutinous rice stuffed with meat or other fillings that are wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves.
- Children decorate their clothes with coloured and scented pouches. According to Chinese folklore, these pouches protect them from evil in the next year!
- Around the festival, people clean their houses and put mugwort leaves and pine root onto doors to prevent disease.
- Dragon Boat Festival was celebrated as a public holiday in China for the first time in 2008.