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Dragon Boat Origins

Born of a 2500 year Chinese tradition, dragon boats are the largest flat water racing canoes in the world. Originally constructed of solid teak, these spectacular boats weigh 1500 pounds and are over 30 feet long.

The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life and death of the ancient patriot-poet Qu Yuan who lived from 340-278 B.C. Qu Yuan was a minister who advocated reforms in his home state of Chu. The King refused to listen to Qu Yuan's advice and instead banished him from the state of Chu. In exile, Qu Yuan wrote poetry expressing his concern for his country and people. In 278, when Qu Yuan heard that his home had been invaded, he drowned himself in the Mi Lo River.

The people of Chu rushed to the river to rescue him. Too late to save Qu Yuan, they splashed furiously and threw zung-ze, steamed rice wrapped in reed leaf, into the river as a sacrifice to his spirit and to keep the fish from Qu Yuan's body.

Since that time, dragon boats are raced on rivers in China and people throw zung-ze into the river to honor the memory of Qu Yuan.

Dragon boat racing emerged in modern times as an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976. Dragon boat racing (sport and festival) is among the fastest growing of team water sports, with scores of thousands of participants in various organizations and clubs in over 60 countries. There are nearly 50 million people worldwide who currently take part annually in dragon boat races.

Present day dragon boats are still similar to those raced over two thousand years ago. Each crew consists of 10 paddlers, one drummer and one steersperson. Teams race in a sprint along a straight course ranging from 250 to 2,000 meters. Top speed comes with a well-timed stroke of the bladea seasoned Dragon Boat team can travel over the water at 10-13 feet per second.