What is a Dragon Boat?


Traditionally, with crews of 20 paddlers, 1 drummer and 1 steersperson, a dragon boat is approximately 40’ long and narrow, with a decorative Chinese dragon head, tail and scales printed on the hull.

During races, teams of paddlers paddle together furiously to the beat of a drum, providing spectators with a spectacularly exciting and colorful sight.


Dragon boating is an ancient Chinese sport that emerged as far back as 2,500 years ago, during the Warring States Period (402–221 BCE).

Originating among fishing communities along the Yangtze River in Southern-Central China, dragon boating was initially a folk ritual designed to appease the rain gods, encourage rainfall and celebrate the summer rice planting.

The Tuen Ng Festival is associated with the myth of Qu Yuan, which emerged in written form as early as the 7th century CE.

Qu Yuan was a poet and high-ranking official of the Warring States Period who was exiled from his state by a corrupt king. When he heard that his court had been destroyed by enemies, he drowned himself out of sorrow.

It is said that villagers went out in the river with boats and drums to try to rescue his body and threw sticky rice dumplings (zongzi) into the water to prevent fish from eating his corpse, but they were unable to find him.

The date of Qu Yuan’s suicide was the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the same day that the Tuen Ng Festival is celebrated.

Qu Yuan. Unknown artist. / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

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