Dragon boat racing is a 2,500 year-old Chinese sport that has become a global phenomenon with over 10,000 teams in more than 50 countries. According to the United States Dragon Boat Federation (USDBF), there were over 70 dragon boat festivals, 3,300 dragon boat teams and more than 50,000 paddlers in the US during 2004.
Dragon boats are 4 feet wide and 40 feet long, beautifully colored and shaped like a dragon with a dragon’s head and tail. Each boat holds 20 paddlers moving in perfect unison, a steersman navigating the boat, and a drummer pounding a rhythm to keep the team in sync.
The roots of dragon boat racing originated 2,500 years ago in the southern provinces of China. According to the legend, Qu Yuan, a poet and advisor to the Emperor, jumped into the Mei Lo River in despair over government corruption. Local citizens revered Qu Yuan as a hero and rushed out in their boats to save him. They pounded drums to scare away fish and water spirits from eating his body. Today’s dragon boat races are a reenactment of this attempt to rescue the beloved hero.
For additional information, check out Wikipedia’s article on dragon boating.