The History of Dragon Boating – The legend of Qu Yuan
The ancient sport of Dragon Boat racing has an intriguing and celebrated history, dating back to 332 BC in China. Chinese tradition commemorates the death of Qu Yuan each year at the Dragon Boat Festival, when respect is paid to the dragon, ruler of the water.
Qu Yuan descended from the imperial family and is one of China’s foremost famous scholars. He is recognised as one of the greatest Chinese poets in history.
Qu Yuan was a statesman and diplomat for the Chu Emperor, and in the time of remorseless wars, he was repeatedly slandered and endured the ongoing jealousy and corruption of his fellow ministers. Qu Yuan’s external alliances and objection to the use of force led him to fall out of the emperor’s favour and was dismissed from office and banished, never to return to power.
Humiliated and living in exile, the ever patriotic Qu Yuan, deeply grieving over the eventual fall of the Chu capital, tragically drowned himself in the Miluo river on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in that year.
When the news of his suicide reached the villagers, they immediately took to their boats, beating drums and their paddles on the water to frighten fish and water dragons away and prevent them from eating the body of their fallen poet.
Chinese tradition commemorates the death of Qu Yuan each year at the Dragon Boat Festival, when respect is paid to the dragon, ruler of the water.