Dragon boat racing is an ancient Chinese custom that is over 2,400 years old. Festivals or races take place all over the world at different times during the year. Originally, it took place on the riverbanks of southern China as a fertility rite to ensure good crops. The race was held to prevent bad luck and to encourage rain. The object of worship was the dragon.
It also commemorates the death of the patriotic Chinese poet and Minister of State, Chu Yuan. He protested about the corrupt government and was stripped of his post. He was unhappy and wandered though the countryside. One day he disappeared into the Mi Lo River. His devoted followers raced out to try and save him, beating drums to scare away the fish. They also threw rice dumplings into the river so the fish would eat them rather than the poet. They were too late. It is also believed the rice dumplings were thrown into the river as a sacrifice to Chu Yuan's spirit.
Rice dumplings and tzungtzu is now eaten on this day in commemoration. The races take place to remember the effort the fisherman and local people made to save the poet. It is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year.