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All there is to Know about Dragon Boat Racing

Updated on July 23, 2012
Qu Yuan Statue
Qu Yuan Statue | Source

How It Started

Its origin can be traced down to the period before Quin Dynasty,2000 years ago in China. It is governed and promoted by an international body known as International Dragon Board Federation(I.D.B.F).This racing provides enjoyment to people of all ages and is popular in more than 50 countries and territories. It is celebrated as a ritual and has emerged as a famous international sport.This sport is held in the memory of the death of Qu Yuan, who was an extremely loyal and faithful adviser to the King.He drowned himself when the King was over-powered and killed by the enemies. His deep patriotism moved the people and to keep his memory alive, they raced dragons and sounded drums.It is also celebrated as a modern festival.

Pink Carnations


These are thrown into the water at the festival in memory of the departed soul of Qu Yuan by the breast cancer survivors. The carnations are tokens to commemorate in honour of those who have survived from breast cancer. The food is covered in the lotus leaves is thrown into the water. Till date it has become a popular festival throughout Canada. It became popular in Canada in 1986 as a part of EXPO86 and now it is one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

Swan Boat Racing
Swan Boat Racing | Source

Origin & Other Cultures

The origin of this popular dragon boat racing was in Southern China about 20 centuries ago.In the western world this race has become a source of great recreation. It has flourished since 1970s’ and has crossed the boundaries of China extended its celebration in Asia and North America and also in India.

  • In Korea it has become a part of their culture for more than 1000 years.
  • In Thailand it is famous as swan-boat racing.
  • In Vietnam it is known as Ba Trao Rowing. The river god and the earth god are worshipped together for seeking peace,happiness and good harvest.
  • In Okinawa,Japan, Naha Hari is a popular tradition among the fishermen praying for good weather since 14 century.
  • In Kerela, India-the Onam festival is celebrated by involving the rowing of snake boats with 100 paddlers in offering to the Sree Krishna Temple.


It is a flat water-paddling sport canoe and is rowed without kneeling and by using single blade paddles without being rigged to the water-craft. It is made up of teak wood in different sizes.

It is a challenging race not because of its paddling technique only but coordinating with 19 other paddlers on the boat throughout the race(catch-pull-finish-reach).These marathon races are of 250m, 1000m, 2000m and so on. The crew are usually of 22 members.There are 20 paddlers,1 drummer and 1 sweep.The canoes are of various length and size.The smaller boats have 10 paddlers and the big boats carry 50 paddlers with a drummer and a sweep.In some areas of China the paddlers are more than 80.


The Nature Of Activity

  • Drummer: The drummer rythmically beats and is considered as the pulse of the boats.
  • Paddlers: They paddle using a specific type of paddler and sit facing forward.
  • Sweep: They are popularly known as the steersman controls the boat with his ore at the rare position, commonly the side and of-centres.

The Dragon boat racing was introduced in Singapore in 1978.Today its popularity has risen and it has an Association of 22 Dragon boats and other set of 18 dragon boats with 12 crew members.The “Dragon Boat Association” organizes this festival annually by adorning these boats with beautiful ornaments on the head and tail of the dragon shaped vessel. This festival is held in July and is a spectacular experience to witness this occasion in the modern age. The myth of the tradition ritual is blended with the modern flavour and facilities for the sport to become a success in ages to come.


The Championship

Host City
Yueyang, China
Vancouver, Canada
Hong Kong, China
Wellington, New Zealand
Nottingham, United Kindom
Philadelphia, United States
Rome, Italy
Poznan, Poland
Cape Town, South Africa
Shanghai, China
Toronto, Canada
Sydney, Australia
Penang, Malaysia
Prague, Czech Republic
Macau, Macau
Tampa Bay, USA
Hong Kong, China
Tehran, Iran

Dragon Boat Festival


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    • alocsin profile image


      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      These are also popular in Malaysia.

    • myi4u profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Sometimes I find it hard to believe that there are often mishaps during dragon boat racings. I would have thought each of the rowers must be good in swimming yet some of them drown when their boat overturned during races.

      Nice info!


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