Penang hosts a wide array of festivals every month, throughout the year. Most of these festivals have a long history behind them and have been a part of the culture of the city for many years. Same is the case with the Dragon Boat Festival 2015. This year marks the 36th iteration of the Dragon Boat Festival 2015, as always on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. The history of the Dragon Boat Festival has many legends attached to it, which makes the event even more exciting for the participants.
The festival is held as a memorial for Qu Yuan who was a minister of Chu, which is one of the states in China. He was also a poet who was exiled when he started to convince people to fight against the forces of Qin. During his exile, he spent his time composing poems about his love for his country. When he found out that the Qin army had captured the capital of Chu, he plunged into the river, ending his life.
When the people found out about his death, they started to show up at the river and paid their respects to the great poet. The city’s fishermen got on their boats and went to look for his dead body. His death marked the 5th day of the 5th lunar month and this is why this day is celebrated in his name. People even threw food into the river to make sure the fish didn’t attack his body.
They went as far as to pour alcohol in to the river with the idea that the fish and other sea creatures would get drunk and not attack the body. This is why people, to this day, celebrate the memory of Qu Yuan by involving and competing in dragon boat racing and spend the day drinking wine and eating the same food the people in the past threw in the river.
To this day, people see Dragon boat racing as an important part of the day and this is why a large number of people participate in the races, while the rest of the crowd watches from the sidelines. The canoes for racing are colorful and usually shaped as dragons. The progress of racers, marked by a gunshot into the air, is followed and sped up by drum beats and music. The game has slowly spread to many cities in the world and people enjoy the sport, celebrating the day with families and friends, drinking and eating merrily.
With time, dragon racing has evolved into a sport and people train all year long to participate and win the prizes with their teams. The dragon race will be held this year on 30th and 31st May, 2015. The cup awarded to the winner is called the Qu Yuan Cup. Needless to say, the festival, like all others in Penang, is an opportunity for people to have fun and enjoy the culture with fellow residents of the city while enjoying a healthy sport.