Another spiritual theme that emerges during the time of the dragon boat race that bears larger significance is the fact that food, wine, and the idea of bounty are important elements. While this is certainly a part of many festive occasions, food and wine serve symbolic functions as well. There are numerous references to the importance of food, wine, and demonstrations of bounty, which is evidenced in many areas, including the fact that it is up to the rich men in the community to supply the food and wine. There are also others that do the same as they vowed to do so, although the reasons for these vows are not discussed. This might serve as a “goodwill” offering from those who are not peasants, but this food and wine is not simply enjoyed by all participants and spectators in the same way. For instance, the author notes that before the races begin, “The boatmen must force in the food and wine beyond the point of satisfaction until nothing is left, otherwise, anything left has to be thrown into the water together with the dishes and the chopsticks” (290). Although the author does not elaborate on why this aspect of food is part of the pre-race ceremony, it seems that the bounty associated with it might be associated to luck and fortune somehow. Just as there are sacrificial animals who are sent downstream during the ceremonies, this plentiful food itself might be considered in itself to be sacrificial as it is being prepared and given to the people who work the land for mere purpose of giving thanks or, if not that, for using generosity in a sacrificial manner. Food is also mentioned as being present among the spectators and it seems that peasants and others bring their best to these races. This is more general aspect of many festivals across cultures but when viewing food as more broadly symbolic, the importance of food emerges as somehow related to ceremony, even if the author does not explicitly state this fact. This is further evidenced by the fact that food serves as a physical and ceremonial award as “at the victor’s home, food and wine are especially abundant and his neighbors, relatives, and friends come to offer congratulations” (210). Food then is not important as a ceremonial offering, but as a ceremonial award as well.

The dragon boat races also hold great community and regional significance. Just as in sports in our modern times, people ally themselves with their hometown team and ruthlessly defend their prowess. This is a modern way of community spirit and bonding with one’s geographic center, which is also the case in this ancient world of dragon boat races in traditional China. The author states that people were often fiercely territorial and proud of their region’s champions and says, “Each boat belongs to a distinct region, and the people of its home base quarrel with those of the others about who won and who lost. Even the children and women do not admit defeat” (210). During the races themselves, when the boats go by their home base, the people cheer wildly and celebrate and when the members of other regions go by, those same people shout insults and even throw things at their competitors. Again, this vaguely reminiscent of modern sports rivalries where there is fierce geographic/regional loyalty that is defended, even in the face of losses and defeat. The community-building function is the same as it is now. In fact, it might be even more meaningful than now because peasants were almost wholly reliant on their individual communities and by showing unity, they would be further strengthened and bonded.

The dragon boat races were far more than mere sporting events that drew large, random crowds. There was a great deal of ritual, ceremony and sacrifice involved which makes the races more about spirituality and the promise of good luck in the future than about sport. In the course of these races, symbolic elements such as food and wine were used to demonstrate openness, generosity, and sacrifice as well as elements of reward. The main aspect of the sports-related function was based on distinct communities and regions as “teams” which meant that communities were brought together under a common purpose and made to feel pride in their region, even if the rivalry was so often bitter and what we might consider in modern times to be rather “unsportsmanlike” in nature. The dragon boat races were important spiritual, ritualistic, and ceremonial events meant to dispel ill will and bad luck and reinforce communities.