Dragon Boat Races in Kansas City

Thess dragon boat crew members paddle hard as they reach the finish in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

This dragon boat crew paddle hard as they reach the finish in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

Dragon boats full of hard-working crews raced on Brush Creek at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri,  today (June 14, 2014).  I enjoyed the race loafing on the banks.  It looked like hard work, especially turning the boat to return to the starting point, which was also the finish line, but I’m sure it was a lot of fun, too.  Two boats raced each other in each race.  Whichever boat got around the pink buoy at the turn first was hard to beat.

Dragon Boat races are a 2,000-year-old tradition in China that arrived in Kansas City ten years ago.

The two dragon boats make the turn in their race in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Whoever is able to make the turn first has a great advantage.

The two dragon boats make the turn in their race in the International Dragon Boat Festival on June 14, 2014, on Brush Creek in the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Whoever is able to make the turn first has a great advantage.

The annual International Chinese Dragon Boat Festival in Kansas City was founded by Mr. Robert S. Chien with the Society for Friendship with China.  The crews debuted the four new fiberglass boats that were made for the event in China, part of a fleet commemorating of the death of Qu Yuan in 278 B.C.  The dragon boat tradition began, according to Chinese legend, because friends and admirers of the statesman and poet used boats, noise and food to scare away hungry fish after Qu Yuan drowned after throwing himself into a river.  Qu Wanshen, a 71st generation descendant of Qu Yuan, was on the schedule to attend. That’s some genealogy chart!

During the festival, sticky rice rice dumplings are eaten in honor of the rice dumplings thrown in the way two millennia ago. The rice dumplings, called Zongzi in Chinese, are sticky rice wrapped in bamboo/lotus/banana leaves. I, unfortunately, didn’t stumble across the food tent so I missed out on those.  Next year, that will be my first stop!

Chinese lanterns blow in the breeze on a footbridge over Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri.

Chinese lanterns blow in the breeze on a footbridge over Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri.

Qu Yuan was the earliest great patriotic poet as well as a great statesman, ideologist, diplomat and reformer in ancient China.  He lived in the latter part of the Warring States Period (476 BC – 221 BC). According to the Society for Friendship with China,  Qu Yuan was a minister to the Zhou emperor during the Warring States Period (475 – 221 BC). He was a wise man who was strongly opposed to the corruption of the imperial court.

Because of Qu Yuan’s success, he aroused jealousy in his fellow ministers. They plotted against him and convinced the emperor that Qu Yuan was a traitor. Qu Yuan was banished, and returned to his home town. During his years of banishment, Qu Yuan collected legends and folk tales, and wrote poetry. He never lost his patriotic love for his emperor, and was greatly concerned about the future of the Zhou dynasty.

Eventually the Qin warriors overthrew the Zhou rulers and proceeded to plunder the country. On the 5th day of May, 278 BC, Qu Yuan learned about the fall of his capital city, and in a fit of despair, committed suicide by throwing himself into the Miluo River. The townspeople, hearing of Qu Yuan’s fate, rushed to their boats to try to save him. Since he was much loved, they tried to prevent the fish from eating his body by throwing rice dumplings into the water. They beat drums to keep evil spirits away.

To this day, the 5th day of the 5th lunar month is celebrated by eating rice dumplings (zong zi) and racing dragon boats. It is also a day for wearing talismans to keep away evil spirits. Adults drink Xiong Huang wine, and children wear fragrant silk pouches to guard against evil.

In Chinese culture, Dragon boat festival has been an important holiday for centuries, but in recent years dragon boat racing has become an international sport.

Four dragon boats are tied up at the dock, awaiting their races.  These boats were built in China for the Kansas City race.

Four dragon boats are tied up at the dock, awaiting their races. These boats were built in China for the Kansas City race.

 

Spectators have fun while waiting for the next dragon boat race to begin on Brush Creek in Kansas City.

Spectators have fun while waiting for the next dragon boat race to begin on Brush Creek in Kansas City.

Click on a thumbnail to see a full-size photo and a caption.

About the Society for Friendship with China.

 

 

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12 Comments

Filed under History, Kansas City, Life, Photography

12 responses to “Dragon Boat Races in Kansas City

  1. Great shots and looks like everyone had an awesome time 🙂

  2. I haven’t attended a dragon boat festival Catherine, but I thought they were pretty much an excuse for a bunch of buddies to get wet and drunk. This is obviously not the case in Kansas City; this event sounds like the Real McCoy. I had no idea of the history, and what an interesting story. When I read stories like this, I’m always reminded that in America we boast of our 200+ year history, but China has been a country for 2000 years. Nice post, and sorry about the sticky rice. ~James

    • After I posted this blog, I clicked on the “dragon boats” tag on WordPress and saw many informative posts and information about this festival. I’d never heard of it before, even though it’s an old tradition and even ten years old in my own city. There’s lots to learn about this fascinating world of ours, which is a good reason for people to visit your blog! I’ve been reading your Peru posts lately. http://gallivance.net/2013/02/26/cusco-naval-of-the-inca-world/ Thanks for your comment.

  3. Lynn

    I went to this event last year. I especially enjoyed the little girls recitals. The little girls and the dances were somewhat traditional. A fun event.

  4. I couldn’t help but google for Dragon Boat information here in Oz after reading your post, Catherine. To my surprise there are over 300 clubs offering everything from races to lessons. It is amazing what happens in our world, just around the corner (so to speak) without our knowledge.!
    Really enjoyed the post; history can be so interesting.

  5. I love Dragon Boat Races! Every day when I walk the Vancouver SeaWall, there is at least one Dragon Boat in False Creek. I admire the racer’s determination. Rain or shine, they’re out there! Our race starts on June 20th with a Blessing Ceremony.

    Great photo captures! Looks like you had a wonderful time! 🙂

  6. We have one in Cleveland, too! http://www.cledba.org. Except ours is in September… I think you have inspired me for 2014! Thanks!

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