The Wayne State Confucius Institute sponsored a dragon boat team for the seventh straight year at the Capital City Dragon Boat Race sponsored by the Women's Center of Greater Lansing. The races took place on Sunday, September 15, 2019, beginning at 8 AM at Hawk Island Park, on Lansing's south side. Each team consisted of 18 paddlers, a drummer, a flag catcher, and a sternsman provided by the American Dragon Boat Association. The teams, some quite accomplished and some assembled for the first time, took part in time trials in the morning and were placed into heats of four based on their average time in two morning races. Two races are necessary because the current of the river inevitably flows a bit faster on one side than the other. 

The WSU 2019 Confucian Warrior Dragon Boat Team, consisting largely of WSU students, staff, and alumni--with most taking part in the event for the first time--finished 12th in a field of 18, with an average time of less than 0.4 seconds behind three immediate competitors. The WSU Confucius Institute provided bus transportation to and from Lansing, breakfast and lunch boxes, and hats and t-shirts for its team members. A film crew from Beijing Communication University was on hand, following the WSU-CI staff for a documentary they had begun filming about American Confucius Institutes three days prior.   

The event commands a great deal of stamina, technique, and synchronization, as participants on two sides of a long, specialized boat paddle 250 yards with the intent of having their flag catcher snatch their team's designated, buoyed flag in the shortest possible time. Winners are determined by shortest average times after racing on each side of the river.

In spite of a bit of rain and some huddling under tents this year, a good time was had by all!


Dragon Boat racing enjoys a 2500 year tradition in China. Each team consists of 18 rowers (with a minimum of eight women), a drummer and a flag catcher responsible for snatching a buoyant flag hoisted at the end of the team’s respective lane. Each team races against a competitor twice, exchanging river sides, since winds and currents often favor one side over another. Final results are based on average times. An experienced helmsman is provided for the Capital City Dragon Boat Races, assuring that teams stay on course and head directly for their intended flag.

The Confucian Warrior team met in Lansing on Saturday, May 20, for a scheduled orientation and practice. The following day, the team competed three times throughout the day, including the initial time trials, for a total of six races. Some teams were experienced and had practiced together for years while others, such as the Confucian Warrior team, drew on the enthusiasm of many first timers. In spite of a poor showing in their first race, the Warrior team followed the coaching of an experienced helmsman, and synchronized their strokes to a first-place victory in their division over the course of three more races. Each race, which generally lasts between 3-3 ½ minutes, requires a fair amount of determination and stamina on the part of each team member. A surprising amount of soreness was often reserved until the following day!

“The event,” according to WSU Confucius Institute Director John Brender, “is far more about the bonding between WSU team members than about where we place”. Races are competitive, but ultimately fun and friendly. Although the Confucius Institutes at Michigan State and Western Michigan University did not field a team this year, Brender is secretly pleased to recall that Confucian Warrior teams have emerged consistently victorious whenever pitted against Confucian Spartans or Confucian Broncos...


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In 2015, the WSU Confucius Institute took part in the Capital City Dragon Boat Race for the second year in a row, while also providing Chinese entertainment for spectators. They were joined by the Confucius Institutes of Western Michigan University and Michigan State University.

Dragon Boat race, now in its sixth year, is a 300-meter race on the Grand River in  Lansing. Teams of twenty—18 rowers, a drummer and flag catcher, race against each other for fastest times. Because the current tends to favor one side over the other, two races are conducted with teams switching sides. The accumulated or average times determine final results.

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