Enter the dragon boats to the beat of the drums at annual Taiwan races

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Taiwan's dragon boat festival
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Taiwan's dragon boat festival
Performers throw molten iron against a wall to create sparks during a traditional performance ahead of the Dragon Boat festival in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China May 29, 2017. Picture taken May 29, 2017. China Daily via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Participants take part in a dragon boat race to celebrate Dragon Boat festival in Tongren, Guizhou province, China May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT.
Participants take part in a dragon boat race to celebrate Dragon Boat festival at a wetland park in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT.
Dragon boats get together to get flags during a ceremony as part of the celebration to mark the annual Tuen Ng or Dragon Boat Festival at Hong Kong's Aberdeen May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Participants take part in a dragon boat race to celebrate Dragon Boat festival at a wetland park in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT.
A young participant splashes water during a ceremony in between races during Tung Ng or Dragon Boat Festival at Aberdeen fishing port in Hong Kong May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Dragon boats compete during the annual Tuen Ng or Dragon Boat Festival at Hong Kong's Aberdeen May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
HAIKOU, CHINA - MAY 30: Aerial view of crowd at beach on May 30, 2017 in Haikou, Hainan Province of China. Thousands of people came to the beach in Haikou on the Dragon Boat Festival (aka Duanwu Festival). (Photo by VCG)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - MAY 30: Teams compete during the 2017 Dragon Boat Championships on May 30, 2017 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - MAY 30: Teams compete during the 2017 Dragon Boat Championships on May 30, 2017 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images)
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TAIPEI, May 30 (Reuters) - There was cheering, drumming and a disciplined display of coordinated strength at the annual dragon boat races on Tuesday in the Taiwan capital.

Athletes paddled vigorously through the water in unison to the beat of drums, covering a distance of 500 meters (1,640 ft) on the Keelung River before reaching the finish line.

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

"In this sport, we need ten people to do the exact same movement," said dragon boat racer Hsu Tzu-han, whose team won in their 10-man category.

"To achieve (this) coordinated strength, every person has to concentrate on every paddle stroke every day," he said. "This is the biggest challenge that we faced."

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 over 2000 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.

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