Chinese take to the seas in annual dragon boat races

International

Participants compete in a dragon boat race as part of celebrations marking the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, held throughout Hong Kong, Friday, June 7, 2019. Dragon boat races are in remembrance of Chu Yuan, an ancient Chinese scholar-statesman, who drowned in 277 B.C. while denouncing government corruption. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG (AP) — People in China and several other parts of Asia competed Friday in annual dragon boat races, a tradition with roots dating back more than 2,000 years.

The dragon boats are built in the shape of war canoes and ornately carved and painted with dragon heads and tails. The largest boats are up to 12 meters (39 feet) long and carry a crew of 46 paddlers.

In Hong Kong, competitors took part in the races in Aberdeen Harbor. Accompanied by the beat of the drums, the boats raced against each other to the finish line, where the winner received a victory flag.

Afterward, competing teams used their paddles to splash water at each other, a way to share good fortune.

In Taiwan, dozens of teams took part in races in Taipei.

The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet and politician who is said to have drowned himself more than 2,000 years ago to protest against government corruption.

Legend has it that locals wanting to prevent fish from eating Qu’s remains splashed water and pounded drums to scare them away. They also threw rice dumplings in the water to feed the fish.

These days, the races have become an event for companies, associations and group of friends to gather and build team spirit.

In addition to the races, the festival is also marked by eating traditional rice dumplings.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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