Dragon Boat Festival

Ben and I received the happy addition of an extra day off this week in honor of the Dragon Boat Festival. I was really excited about this festival and tried desperately to find out where I could view the Dragon Boat Races and get myself some rice dumplings, but none of my expat websites or even any of my Chinese friends could tell me where to go for the big event. In the end I decided to sleep in. However, as luck would have it, Ben and I were able to stumble upon it during lunch.


As we were walking to lunch, we heard the familiar sound of drums and firecrackers. Thinking it was just another lion dance, we continued to lunch without giving the distant drums another thought. But, when we had finished lunch and were still able to hear the drums, we decided to follow the ruckus which led us straight to the Pearl River.


The river was scattered with extremely long and thin boats filled with local men rowing in the hot sun. Each boat had some drummers maintaining the rhythm and someone in charge of the firecrackers. They would put the firecrackers in baskets on long poles, light them, and then quickly extend them over the water.

A Dragon Boat in front of the Guangzhou Tower

This tradition stems from an old legend. Long ago, there was a bad emperor. He allowed his officials to become corrupt and he didn’t care for the needs of his people. In a protest against the corruption in the government a poet named Qu Yuan drowned himself in a river. The people respected Qu Yuan and therefore immediately set out in their boats to try to save his body. When this didn’t work, they beat drums and lit firecrackers to prevent the fish from eating his body. They also threw rice in the water in an offering (or some people say that it was another way to prevent the fish from eating his body).


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