The Chinese dragon boat festival, or Duanwu, began in Southern China around 2,500 years ago, and is now celebrated on the rivers of cities all over the world. It takes place on the 5th day of the 5th Chinese lunar month around the time of the summer solstice, which is the 23rd of June this year. Some say that the festival began after the famous scholar Qu Yuan drowned in the Miluo River, and that the race is inspired by the people who rowed their boats out to try and save him. The festival also takes places to venerate the dragon water deity. In Chinese tradition, the dragon symbolizes strength and vitality, and honoring his spirit can bring rainfall needed for the crops, and prosperity to villages and towns.
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The dragon boats are shaped like open mouthed dragons at the front, and are powered by up to 80 rowers. They are colorfully decorated and the eyes of the dragon are painted before the race in order to ‘bring the boat to life’. The team members who win the race will bring good fortune to their community.