DragonFest History

The Legend & History

Qu Yuan

According to legend, the first Dragon Boat Festival originated in ancient Central China 2,500 years ago in an unknown location on the Yangtze River and commemorates the death of the patriotic statesman and poet Qu Yuan (278 – 340BC). Qu Yuan was a champion of political reform and peace, particularly in relation to the warring states in his neighbouring kingdoms and was beloved by common people.  Unfortunately, his country fell under the influence of corrupt ministers misinforming the Emperor of Chu, who banished Qu Yuan from the entire Kingdom. 

During Qu Yuan’s wanderings in exile, he learnt that his country had been invaded by a rival Kingdom and in despair, he took his own life by leaping into the Miluo River. The local people, seeing him leap into the waters, raced out in their boats in an attempt to save him, beating their drums and splashing their oars in the water in order to keep the fish away from his body, but their plight did redeem Qu from the waters, who is now called the Legend Maker.

A water sports success story

Dragon boat racing is the most popular activity during the Dragon Boat Festival. This folk custom has been held for over 2,000 years throughout southern China, and now it has become an international sport. A dragon boat is a human-powered watercraft, shaped and decorated in the form of a Chinese dragon varying in size by region or country and crew numbers change accordingly. Generally, in the UK a boat is between 12-15 metres in length and requires a team between 13–17 people to paddle it; during the race, a drummer heads the dragon boat and the drummer is the heartbeat of the team, paddlers harmoniously synchronise their pace set by the drummer.


DragonFest has proved to be ever increasingly popular amongst those into water sports, and particularly in the western world where now see scores of people building teams and touring about the world purely for the thrill and to see if they can top hit the podium, and we Brits are no exception. When members of our very own Royal family, namely The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have ventured out and enjoyed the challenge and wonders of this exhilarating sport, take a look at dragon boating in Royal style, see William and Catherine in full action in a Royal race off here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPlwW-xrGzU

Today…. Event Llama joins forces with the legend maker and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in #DragonFest. A fusion of Chinese and English culture rolled into a major cross-cultural Festival of dragon boat racing, music, dance, arts, crafts, and fanfare and all in the presence of the City of London’s Lord Mayor. #DragonFest is an excellent, fun day out for family friends and team mates, and all in aid of a good cause. The Lord Mayor’s Appeal supports three amazing charities Samaritans, Place 2 Be and Onside Youth Zones.

Old Customs


On the morning of the festival, all families would gather together to eat Zongzi commemorating the life of Qu Yuan. Zongzi is made with sticky rice and various fillings such as red bean or cooked pork which are kneaded into the centre of the rice ball and wrapped in bamboo leaves, either shaped like a pillow or triangular shape then tied with plants stems and can be prepared the day before the festival.

Perfumed pouches

Many contagious diseases and plagues were said to originate during the 5th of a lunar month when the original Dragon Boat Festival took place. Chinese people, especially children made perfume pouches by sewing little bags of colourful silk cloth, filled the bag with fragrant herbs, strung them together with silk threads and hung them around their necks to avoid illness and ward off evil spirits. Today they are hung around the neck of the paddlers because it is said that the perfume pouch is a good luck symbol and wards off evil, bringing victory to your team(s).

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