About Dragon Boat Racing
There are many documents listing the origin of the Dragon Boat
racing. Here is one main legend concerns the poignant saga of a
Chinese court official named Qu Yuan, also known as Ch'u Yuen. It is
said that he lived in the pre-imperial Warring States period
(475-221 BC). During this time the area today known as central China
was divided into seven main states or kingdoms battling among
themselves for supremacy with unprecedented heights of military
intrigue. This was at the conclusion of the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty
period, which is regarded as China's classical age during which
Kongfuzi (Confucius) lived. Also, the author Sunzi (Sun Tzu) is said
to have written his famous classic on military strategy The Art of
War during this era.
Qu Yuan is popularly regarded as a minister in one of the Warring State governments, the southern state of Chu (present day Hunan and Hubei provinces), a champion of political loyalty and integrity, and eager to maintain the Chu state's autonomy and hegemony. Formerly, it was believed that the Chu king fell under the influence of other corrupt, jealous ministers who slandered Qu Yuan as 'a sting in flesh', and therefore the fooled king banished Qu, his most loyal counsellor.
In Qu's exile, so goes the legend, he supposedly produced some of the greatest early poetry in Chinese literature expressing his fervent love for his state and his deepest concern for its future. The collection of odes are known as the Chuci or "Songs of the South (Chu)". His most well known verses are the rhapsodic Li Sao or "Lament" and the fantastic Tien Wen or "Heavenly Questions".
In the year 278 B.C., upon learning of the upcoming devastation of his state from invasion by a neighbouring Warring State (Qin in particular), Qu is said to have waded into the Miluo river which drains into Dongting Hu (lake) in today's Hunan Province -- near the provincial capital city of Changsha and south of the city of Yueyang on Donting Hu, site of the first IDBF World Dragon Boat Championship in 1996 -- holding a great rock in order to commit ritual suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the era. The Qin or Chin kingdom eventually conquered all of the other states including Chu and unified them into the first Chinese empire. The word China derives from this first dynasty of empire, the Qin (or Chin) Dynasty, under imperialist unifier Qin Shi Huang of Terra Cotta Warriors fame.
The common people, upon learning of his suicide, rushed out on the water in their fishing boats to the middle of the river and tried to save Qu Yuan. They beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles in order to keep the fish and evil spirits from his body. Later on, they scattered rice into the water to prevent him from suffering hunger. Another belief is that the people scattered rice to feed the fish, in order to prevent the fishes from devouring the poet's body.
Dragon boat racing as a modern sport
Modern dragon boat racing is organized at an international level
by the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF). The IDBF, a
Member of the General Association of International Sports
Federations (GAISF) recognizes two types of Dragon Boat Racing
activities, namely Sport racing, as practiced by IDBF member
organizations; and Festival racing, which are the more traditional
and informal types of races, organized around the world, where
racing rules vary from event to event.
- Sport racing distances are normally over 200 m or 250 m, 500 m, 1000 m and 2000 m, with formal Rules of Racing.
- A festival race is typically a sprint event of several
hundred meters, with 500 meters being a standard distance in
many international festival races.
There are also some very long endurance events, such as the
Three Gorges Dam Rally along the Yangtze River (or Chang Jiang)
near Yichang, Hubei province, China, which covers up to 100
kilometers and the Ord River marathon in Australia which covers
over 50 kilometers. There is even a frozen mist and ice winter
time dragon boat racing event held in Jilin, a city and province
north of Beijing.