Dragon Boat 龙舟
When Qu Yuan 屈原 leaped into the Miluo River, 汨罗江in 278 BCE, civilians around the area attempted to save him or to recover his body using their boats and creating noises to scare away sea creatures so that they would not attack Qu Yuan’s body. Zongzi, 粽子 or dumpling were also thrown into the river.
They probably did not imagine that this attempt to save Qu Yuan would be transformed into an international sports activity 2000 years later.
Every year during the Duan Wu Jie, 端午节，also known as the Dragon Boat Festival or Dumpling festival, the act of dragon boat racing in rivers was reenacted in memory of Qu Yuan. The boats were decorated to look like dragons and known as Dragon Boats 龙舟. The Dragon Boat races were organized in various parts of China and were an important part of Duan Wu Jie celebration.
Dragon Boat culture spreads
As overseas Chinese settled across the globe, this practice spread outside of China. The colorful dragon boats and the festive mood often attracted great attention. The Dragon boat celebration was appropriated and used for tourist consumption when the Hong Kong Tourism authority utilized it in their marketing campaign in the 1970s.
This initiative helped to popularized Dragon Boat racing around the world and transformed Dragon boat racing into a sport with a rich historical and cultural association. While men were traditional participants in the Dragon Boat races, ladies have begun training and participating in competitions as well.
In 1991, the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF), 国际龙舟联合会 was founded in Hong Kong. Different member states took turns to organize an International Dragon Boat competition.
The spread and popularity of Dragon Boat racing created awareness of Duan Wu Jie and popularized the history of Qu Yuan. Even if most people did not know of the exact historical background, most would know that it commemorated a “poet” or "Chinese minister” who commit suicide by throwing himself into a river.
Through this process, Qu Yuan became one of the most well known Chinese historical personalities in the west and around the world.