The Tujia ethnic group in Guizhou province, China, is celebrating Dragon Boat Festival by Dragon Boat fighting.

This unique tradition has been cherished for more than 300 years by the ethnic group and is unique to the province.

Just like traditional celebrations, the event requires two dragon boats and a team of rowers including a drummer who provides the rhythm to which the paddlers row. However, unlike the usual tradition, the boats set of from each side of the river. When the boats meet in the middle, the strongest members of each team begin to wrestle. The winner of the fight is crowned champion and leads the prayers for the village during the festival.

The participants of this unique tradition come from all walks of life.

What is Dragon Boat Festival?

The festival commemorates the story of the local fishermen who rescued the Chinese poet Qu Yuan from drowning in the Miluo river (Hunan Province). Qu Yuan had entered the water to commit suicide after hearing about the invasion of his state by a neighbouring Warring State.

It is said that the men who waded into the water to rescue the poet beat drums and splashed water with their paddles to prevent fish and evil spirits from his body. It is believed that the rescuers scattered rice into the water to either prevent the poet from starving or to prevent the fish from eating his body.

When is the festival?

The festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese calendar, which is why it is also known as the Double Fifth Festival. Because of this, the date varies in the lunar calendar. This year, it falls on 9 June 2016.

How is the festival usually celebrated?

As well as it being a national holiday in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, races are held in rivers around the world to celebrate the festival. Teams compete in long dragon boats by racing against each other to the rhythmic sound of beating drums, provided by a drummer on each boat.

Another tradition of the festival involves eating zongzi, which are sticky rice snacks which are wrapped in bamboo leaves. Drinking realgar wine is also a common tradition. Credit: Allentchang

Did you participate in your country’s celebrations of the festival this year? If so, let us know how they were!