A Canoe Discipline from the Orient
From its roots in the Far East, Dragon Boat is fast becoming a global Canoe Discipline at both competitive and recreational levels. Physically, these long, open canoes are paddled by 20 paddlers or, in the smaller 10-seater version by ten paddlers who all use single-bladed paddles. Often the craft will be elaborately decorated, and include a drummer and a coxswain or helmsman.
Dragon Boat: the Chinese Way
Dragons have a symbolic meaning for the Chinese. A classic dragon has the head of an ox, the antler of a deer, the mane of a horse, the body of a python, the claws of a hawk and the fins and tail of a fish. Through his strength and power he can ride on clouds and command both the wind and rain.
Dragon Boats are designed to resemble these creatures. The bow is crafted as a dragon head while the stern resembles the tail. The hull is painted with scales and the paddles symbolically represent the claws.
With at least two boats competing against each other over various distances, not only are strength, endurance, courage and skill important, but unity, harmony and team spirit are as well. This all becomes apparent when everybody in the boat paddles to the rhythm of the drum. With its strong visual impact, Dragon Boat is a superb spectator sport.
In ancient China the Dragon Boat was used for religious purposes. But Dragon Boat rose to prominence since the death of the Great Poet, Qu Yuan, in 278BCE. The poet committed suicide in the river Mi Lo and a great Dragon Boat Festival became his memorial. Every year since, his death is marked with the Duanwu Festival (Dragon Boat Festival) also named the Double Fifth (5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese Calendar). And ever since, Dragon Boat racing is seen as a sign for patriotism and moral integrity in China.