Enter the dragon boat race in Taipei

The annual dragon boat contest, based on a Chinese folklore, attracts scores of spectators to the Taiwanese capital.

TAIPEI (Reuters) - There was cheering, drumming and a disciplined display of coordinated strength at the annual dragon boat races on Tuesday (May 30) in the Taiwan capital.

Athletes paddled vigorously through the water in unison to the beat of drums, covering a distance of 500 metres on the Keelung River before reaching the finish line.

Spectators chanted and cheered on the racers and spoke of the vibrant atmosphere and team spirit at the yearly affair.

Dragon boat racing is now a sport, but the festival has its roots in Chinese folklore and is held annually on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar to commemorate the death of legendary hero Qu Yuan, who drowned in the Mi Lo River more than 2,000 years ago while protesting against corrupt rulers in China.

The story goes that people attempted to rescue Qu Yuan by beating drums to scare fish away and by throwing dumplings into the water to prevent the fish from eating his body.

Apart from the dragon boat races, people also make rice dumplings and wear scented sachets to ward off bad luck.