Friday, July 20, 2012

Dragon Boat Races

Look for a dragon boat festival in your area this summer!

The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates Qu Yuan (340 -278 BC), a Court Minister who was a poet and politician in ancient China. Qu Yuan was banished from his state by the King of Chu, who disliked Qu Yuan for speaking out about various state reforms. Unhappy and in deep despair, Qu Yuan roamed the countryside writing poetry about his love of the country and its people. Unable to bear his sorrow any longer, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Mi Lo River.

Legend has it that local fishermen raced out to the river to save Qu Yuan, but could not. To prevent his body from being eaten by the fish, they threw rice dumplings into the water as an offering to his heroic spirit. Each year, on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, crews of paddlers re-enact that frantic rush to save Qu Yuan, by powering long narrow boats with the heads of dragons mounted on the prow through the water, to the frenzied, rhythmic beating of drums. This was the beginning of Dragon Boat Racing!

Dragon Boat racing was introduced to the world at large in the 1970s when the Hong Kong Tourist Board staged an international Dragon Boat Festival to promote Hong Kong culture. Since then, it has spread like wildfire around the globe with races being held in over 40 countries, with more than 50 million people participating in competitions held on every continent. It is often heralded as the fastest growing water sport in the US, and one of the fastest growing corporate team-building activities in the country.

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