Dragon boat racing originated over 2,000 years ago and embodies the story of love and service for one’s country. 2,300 years ago, a well-respected poet and statesmen named Qu Yuan lived in the Chinese Kingdom of Chu and served the government with integrity as Minister of State. He was disturbed by the corruption he saw in the government and as result of his pleas for reforms, was banished from the Kingdom.
For years, he wandered the countryside composing poems expressing his patriotism and love for the people. Either as an act of despair or ultimate protest against the corrupt government, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mei Lo River (in today's Hunan province) on the fifth day of the fifth month in the year 278 B.C. Qu Yuan opted to commit suicide rather than lose honor by serving a corrupt government.
After he jumped into the river, grief-stricken local fishermen who witnessed Qu Yuan's desperate act tried to save the patriotic poet. They sailed up and down the river to look for him and desperately thrashed the water with their oars and paddles to scare off the hungry fishes which might eat his body. To commemorate the patriotic man, the fishermen and rural town folks threw cooked rice dumplings wrapped in silk or banana leaves, called Zhong Zi, into the water in order to appease the spirits of the river on the anniversary of his death.
Now in modern times, paddlers thrash the water for speed at dragon boat races, held to commemorate the legend of Qu Yuan.