Dragon boating is based on the 2300 year old legend of Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was a Chinese poet and statesman, who in the ultimate form of protest, committed suicide in the Mei Lo river around 278 B.C. Local fisherman who witnessed the act quickly paddled their boats to the river and thrashed the water in order to scare the fish away from eating his body. This act of thrashing the water has now evolved into the sport of dragon boating which honors Qu Yuan's sacrifice.
The Washington DC Dragon Boat Festival continues this tradition through cultural and athletic demonstrations. The festival aspect of the event includes eye dotting ceremonies, lion dances, and other cultural demonstrations.