History of dragon boating

About 2300 years ago, during the time of the Warring Chinese States, a respected poet and statesmen named “Qu Yuan” lived in the Royal Kingdom of Chu and served his Emperor with integrity as Minister of State. He was distressed by the corruption, court intrigues and corrupt officials who resented his honesty, wisdom and integrity. Some wicked court officials convinced the Emperor that it was Qu Yuan who was corrupt and his pleas for reform were ignored and Qu Yuan was banished from the Kingdom.

For years Qu Yuan wandered through China composing poems of patriotism and love for his people and eventually settled in a small fishing village by the Mei Lo River. Finally as an act of despair and protest against the entrenched corruption in his beloved home state he threw himself into the Mei Lo river (in today’s Hunan province) on the fifth day of the fifth month in the year 278 B.C. Qu Yuan took his own life rather than serve a corrupt government.

He composed two famous poems known as “Ai Ying” and “Huai Sha” before leaping into the river with a large stone tied to his body. The grief-stricken fishermen who witnessed Qu Yuan’s desperate act, tried to save him. They paddled up and down the river searching desperately, thrashing the water with their paddles to ward off the fish which might eat his body. To mark this tragic event the fishermen threw rice dumplings wrapped in banana leaves, called “Tsung Tze” or “Ma Chang” into the water to appease the spirits of the river.

The fishermen later began to practice their paddling and it is from these humble beginnings that dragon boat racing was born.

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