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A huge international dragon boat race is happening this weekend

Celebrate Dragon Boat Festival watching dragon boaters from all over the world compete for the championship title

Photograph: @余杭发布 via Weibo
Time to rock the dragon, folks. Dragon Boat Festival – or Duanwu Jie in Chinese – is one of China’s many public holidays, falling on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar (that’s Friday 7 June this year). Just like with Tomb-Sweeping Festival and Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival’s got its own traditions, the main one being – you guessed it – dragon boat racing. You can find out what it’s all about at this year’s Suzhou Creek Dragon Boat Invitational Tournament.

This weekend marks the 16th year that the Putuo Sports Bureau has put on its dragon boat tournament near Mengqing Park, and it’s kind of a big deal. Eighty-eight teams from all over the world will be racing alongside the top dragon boaters of China for the championship title. Even the Shanghai police are getting in on the action this year, with over 200 local police officers coming together to compete in the race for the first time.

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Photograph: @警民直通车-上海 via Weibo

While this is only the 16th year of this particular competition, the history of dragon boat racing actually goes back thousands of years. Back in the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), an honourable poet and high-ranking official named Qu Yuan drowned himself in a river after being wrongfully slandered by colleagues and exiled by the king as a result. Locals scrambled in their boats to collect his body while tossing sticky rice dumplings, or zongzi, into the river to keep fish from eating him. Every year since then, people eat zongzi and hold boat races to commemorate the life and death of the beloved scholar.

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Photograph: courtesy Shanghai Putuo District Tourism Bureau

Pretty interesting, right? Head over to Suzhou Creek this weekend to see the action for yourself, and don’t forget to wolf down a few zongzi while you’re at it.

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