This weekend we got to watch our local Dragon Boat races! Have you ever seen this?
Dragon Boat races are a very fast-growing watersport around the globe, and combined Asian fellowship and traditions. But you don’t have to be Asian to appreciate this competitive team sport and it’s fascinating history!
Dragons are popular mythological creatures in China, are associated with rivers, and are essential in agricultural life. However, there are several legends surrounding dragon boats. One involves Qu Yuan, an official who wrote beautiful poetry when he was exiled for his views against corruption. In 278 BC in China, after he drowned in a river, his supporters rushed out in long boats hoping to find and rescue him. Once they realized that they were too late, they began to beat drums to scare away evil spirits, and throw rice dumplings into the water to feed the fish and preserve Yuan’s body. They did not find anything, but the event may have evolved into a ritual of remembrance and dragon boat races.
Many scholars believe that dragon boat races probably originated in southern central China more than 2,500 years ago, in lakes and rivers such as the Yangtze River. Dragon boat racing also became a part of the annual water rituals and agricultural celebrations surrounding the summer rice planting.
In Taiwan, a silk painting from 1000 AD depicts an imperial dragon boat competition that took place then in the ancient Chinese capital of Kaifeng. The silk painting dragon boats, referee boats, marked racing lanes, spectators, streamers, flags and banners and race officials.
Hong Kong brought it to international attention in the 1970’s when they held the first competition- and it has grown in popularity since then! The standard dragon boats now usually have 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat, plus 1 drummer or caller at the bow facing toward the paddlers, and 1 sweep (who steers) at the rear of the boat. Check out this clip of the 2012 World Championships:
If you are interested in seeing dragon boat races, check out these web sites:
The Panamerican Dragon Boat Federation (North, South, and Central American and the Caribbean)
Have you ever been? What did your kids think about it? Mine all wanted to try:).
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