The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival has provided some excellent opportunities for those interested in boat races. It has been more than 25 years now since it first started in 1994. At the time, it was a part of the festivities surrounding the Commonwealth Games held in Victoria. To commemorate Hong Kong Day, the Victoria Chinese Commerce Association had arranged the dragon boats.
They were brought from Vancouver to Victoria for an exhibition race held for a day. Exceeding the expectations of many, the event was a grand success. This led to the festival becoming one of the largest and the most popular summer events of the city.
Over the years, it has received great support from various partners in the community. They include the Royal Canadian Navy, the City of Victoria, and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. Additionally, the national and local sponsors have also supported this event generously.
Dragon boating has become one of the world’s fastest growing sports. There was no dragon boat team that could be seen training in Victoria when the festival began in 1994. Today, several teams have emerged from different parts of Vancouver Island.
Origins of Dragon Boating
The roots of dragon boating can be traced back to a popular Chinese legend. In order to save a respected poet called Qu Yuan from drowning, the villagers made some desperate attempts. They carried boats and dumplings to the middle of the river, but were unsuccessful in their attempts. Later, they sounded the drums and splashed water with their paddles.
This was done so that the evil spirits and fish could be kept away from the body of the poet. Rice was thrown into the water as an offering to Qu Yuan. The purpose of this was also to distract the fish away from his body. One night, Qu Yuan’s spirit appeared before his friends.
He told them that it was a river dragon that had killed him. The spirit of Qu Yuan asked them to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages. These packages would ward off the dragon. Years later, these packages became ‘zongzi’, which is a traditional Chinese food.
Today, the reed leaves are used to wrap lumps of rice instead of silk. The act of racing to search for Qu Yuan’s body in boats became the tradition of dragon boat racing. These races are held annually on Qu Yuan’s death anniversary.
How dragon boating brings communities together
It is the mission of the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival to bring people together as individuals, teams, and businesses. This is achieved by sharing culture and camaraderie in dragon boating. Many commercial organizations are realizing the importance of training in dragon boating.
They see it as a wonderful way of building community and teamwork in their offices. New paddlers training in dragon boating are discovering that it results in a total body workout. They have also discovered that while training builds their muscles, it also builds confidence and new friendships.
The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival also gives visitors from different parts of the world some memorable experiences. They can cheer for the teams, sample a variety of cuisines, and dance to the tunes of local bands.