The Origin of the
Dragon Boat Festival

By Paul K.P. Wong (April 5, 2010)

Albert Wong, the late chairman of the Alberta Dragon Boat Race Foundation from 1992 to 1999.

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is on May 5 in the lunar calendar, it is the most important summer holiday in China.

According to the ancient Chinese imperial calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival was held in the Fifth month (May), it is known as a popular seasonal disease outbreak period -- summer, which commonly known as "evil" in the old days. During this time, all acting in the aim of keeping with the principle of rest, otherwise, people will get sick easily.

Traditionally, the Dragon Boat Festival is in commemoration of Qu Yuan (屈原). Qu Yuan (340 - 278 BC) was a famous Chinese scholar, poet and minister to the King Huai (懷王) from the State of Chu (楚國) in southern China, during the Warring States Period (戰國時代). His works are mostly found in an anthology of poetry known as “Chu Ci” (楚辭).


Albert Wong Memorial Cup.

According to the legend, Qu Yuan jumped into the River Miluo (汨羅江), on that day was May 5 -- the Fifth day of the Fifth month of the traditional Chinese calendar. It is also called Duanwu Festival (端午節).  So far, most people are familiar with the Dragon Boat Festival is to commemorate him, which is commonly known in English as the “Dragon Boat Festival” or “Double Fifth (May 5)”.  In the field of folk culture, the Chinese people to the Dragon Boat Festival Dragon with boat races and eating those glutinous rice tamales are linked with the poet. Since then, every year that day, it should be dragon boat racing, eating those glutinous rice tamales, drinking wine to commemorate Qu Yuan. Some areas in China, in the festival, people insert in the iris or wormwood on the door, which of course is to prevent the diseases or evils attack their families.


Traditional Dragon Boat’s Head and Flag.

Dragon Boat Race is still only one of Chinese traditional festivals, not an official sport. Until 1976, the first one held in Shau Kei Wan Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races, which opened a dragon boat activity in modern, international, standardized sport. The nine fishermen race except the Hong Kong team, has a team has been participating from Nagasaki, Japan. Then the dragon boat races have brought to Japan, Vietnam, the United Kingdom and other countries by active participation. In 1985, Hong Kong held its first International Women's Championship, so this water sports extended to female athletes. For the further promotion of the program, the Dragon Boat Festival in 1991 wad held at the Yueyang City(岳陽市) in the province of Hunan(湖南省) -- a second home of Qu Yuan -- the first International Dragon Boat Festival Dragon Boat event in China.


2012 Dragon Boat Race in the Calgary Glenmore Reservoir.

The First Dragon Boat Festival in Calgary
The first Dragon Boat Festival was brought into Calgary by Albert Wong, an entrepreneur who emigrated from Hong Kong, and was the chairman of the Alberta Dragon Boat Race Foundation from 1992 to 1999. The organization was incorporated in Alberta in July 1992, helped to link up the first boat race held here in Glenmore Reservoir in 1992, which was in combination of the first Hong Kong Festival – a program to promote Hong Kong’s culture and business in Canada, which was held in October.  With the sponsorships by the Hong Kong Canada Business Association, the Calgary Canoe Club, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Husky Energy, Cathay Pacific Airways and HSBC Bank, the race was held successfully with multicultural entertainment in Calgary.  Today, it becomes one of the multicultural events in the city.

Dragon Boating in Calgary today...