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Dragon boat races popular on holiday

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)

14:05, June 13, 2013

Yang Ruicheng, 2, watches racing dragon boats with his grandmother Liu Ziyong on June 12. (Huang Zhiling / China Daily)

Two-year-old Yang Ruicheng jumped and waved early Wednesday at the sight of boats racing in the Jinghu Lake in Deyang, Sichuan province.

"He watched the race last year and still talks about it. The boy who usually gets up late was an early bird this morning to watch it again," said his 50-year-old grandmother Liu Ziyong with a broad smile.

Liu and his grandson were only two of thousands of onlookers who lined both sides of the lake in downtown Deyang to view the dragon boat race marking this year's Dragon Boat Festival, which fell on Wednesday.

With a gunshot heralding the start of the race, 12 dragon boats each with a drummer, helmsman and 12 boatmen dashed in a distance of 500 meters in the lake.

After the winning six teams were announced, local police on assault boats demonstrated water search and rescue tactics, drawing cheers from onlookers.

City mayor Chen Xinyou explained, "The police joined in relief efforts for the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, in which they relocated more than 3,000 people."

After the demonstration, more than 100 ducks were thrown in the lake, and both boatmen and individual swimmers competed in the Sichuan tradition to grab them.

"It is believed that one receives good luck in the rest of the year if he catches a duck during the Dragon Boat Festival," said Shang Xin, a farmer who managed to grab a duck.

After completion of Jinghu Lake in 1991, Deyang, a city known for its heavy machinery production, hosted the dragon boat race for three consecutive years, and according to Chen, the race on Wednesday was the second after an absence of nearly 20 years.

Races held nationwide during the Dragon Boat Festival commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a patriot poet during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), who committed suicide by flinging himself into the Miluo River in Hunan province after his mother kingdom fell into enemy rule.

Legend holds that people in boats raced to the site where he drowned and threw in zongzi (glutinous rice wrapped in reed leaves) so fish wouldn't feed on Qu's body.

The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated with boat races and zongzi yearly on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

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