A dragon boat (龙舟) is a human-powered watercraft traditionally made in China.
Dragon is the symbol of the Chinese nation. As early as during the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States periods (770-221 BC), people began to paint dragon heads, scales and tails on wooden boats. This was the earliest form of a dragon boat.
The custom of dragon boat racing is said to have started in order to honor the death of the great Qu Yuan who drowned himself in a river in the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). In fact, the water sport could be found in various places in an earlier period. During a race, the boat carries rowers, helmsman, banner bearer and gong and drum beaters. Their division of labor is clearly defined and teamwork is essential.
The boat race is preceded by a rite to welcome the dragon out. After it begins, gongs and drums are beaten and the crowds swarm onto the banks to cheer them on. The scene is most thrilling and exciting.
Chinese dragon boat racing enjoys great popularity among the people. When a race is held, participants and spectators are numbered in the thousands or tens of thousands.
In order to promote the sport and improve its technical level, in 1984, the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission decided to include dragon boat racing as a formal national competitive sport and to organize the first national “Qu Yuan Cup” dragon boat race in Foshan City, Guangdong Province.
The Chinese Dragon Boat Association was established in Yichang City, Hubei Province, on June 6, 1985. The International Dragon Boat Federation was founded in 1995. The first World Dragon Boat Championships were held in Yueyang, Hebei Province in June of the same year.
Apart from the bi-annual event, China has also organized international dragon boat rallies and other events in order to promote the sport more widely in the world.