The Ancient Tradition of Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon boat racing: The next best thing to riding actual dragons.

If you were in Taipei on May 30, you would have seen a huge crowd gathered to watch the annual dragon boat race, where teams paddle for half a kilometer (a third of a mile) to demonstrate their rowing supremacy and crush their competitors’ spirits. Or something.

Dragon boat racing is now a sport, but the festival has its roots in Chinese folklore. It’s held each year on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar to commemorate the death of legendary Chinese hero Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan is known for drowning himself in the Mi Lo River in 278 BC to protest against corrupt rulers in China. (Nowadays, rulers are more responsive; the CCP will gladly assist your suicide if you try to protest against them.)

The story goes that people attempted to rescue Qu Yuan by beating drums to scare fish away and by throwing sticky rice dumplings into the water to prevent the fish from eating his body. This did not succeed. Oh well, at least we have zongzi.

Watch this China Uncensored episode about the unique political history of zongzi and Qu Yuan.

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