Import From China Business

2010-2014  Copyright

A practical guide for starting a small business

Return from  Dragon Boat Racing to Home Page

Return from  Dragon Boat Racing to Chinese Traditions

Dragon Boat Racing also called Tuen Ng is a festival that dates back to the Chou Dynasty.  It is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month on the Chinese Lunar Calendar or between May and June of the western calendar.  The event, also called "Double Fifth" due to its date of celebration marks the arrival of summer.  The Chinese would gather by rivers and lakes to watch dragon boat races.  These boats are highly decorated with the wooden dragon heads attached to the bows and dragon tails attached to the sterns.  Each team of paddlers varies from twenty in modern times to eighty in ancient times.  The team leader sits at the bow beating a drum to set the pace while a second team member in the stern steers the boat using a rudder.  

History of Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat Racing

Photo Credit: Stitch Dragon - Erin Calaway-Mackay

Origins of Dragon Boat Racing

According to legend, the dragon boat races originated in the fourth century B.C. to commemorate the death of Statesman and Poet Ch'u Yuen.  He was angry because the king would not take his advice and went to war unnecessarily.  Ch'u Yuen drowned himself in the Milo River in Hunan province to protest against this corrupted government.  The local fishermen ran to the river to try to save him but they were too late.  They beat the water with their paddles to try to keep the fish away from his body.  To save Ch'u Yuen's body, the villagers threw rice into the water hoping that the fish would eat the rice instead.

Thus began the tradition of preparing the festival food of a glutinous sticky rice dish called zongzi.  This rice dish is made with various stuffing such as meat which is then wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed.   

The Growth of Dragon Boat Racing

Today, Dragon Boat Racing has become an international phenomenon taking place all over the world.  Interest in competing in this event has spread to non-Chinese populations as far as Germany.  The local events compete for the honor for being able to participate in the annual international Dragon Boat Racing event which occurs in Hong Kong and Singapore in June.

Some of the largest Dragon Boat Racing events in North America include:

This is another example where a Chinese festival that began as a tradition has now infiltrated cultures all over the world.  The lessons of bravery (Ch'u Yuen), and honor and respect (the fishermen) transcend international cultural boundaries.  It epitomizes the way that China as a nation thinks and feels for many centuries.