Stepping into the heat of summer in Hong Kong, we are now approaching one of the most action-packed public holidays in Hong Kong. A public holiday where you can expect Victoria Harbour to be packed with adrenaline-pumping races, sounds of drummers and cheering fans. This year the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will take place at the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade on the 24th & 25th June 2023. Our Localhood member Saravanan, being an ex-dragon boat team member gives us a brief insight the Dragon Boat Festival and how in Hong Kong (also globally) it’s an activity enjoyed not only by locals, but as well as foreigners alike, showing how we are living in a melting pot of a city.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the Tuen Ng Festival (端午節), is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The festival is celebrated in Hong Kong and other parts of the world where there are significant Chinese communities, including Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia.
The origins of the festival dates back more than 2,000 years to the Warring States period of ancient China. According to legends, the festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a famous poet and politician who lived during the Zhou Dynasty. Qu Yuan was a loyal minister who was exiled by the king and eventually committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River. The local people, who admired Qu Yuan for his loyalty and patriotism, raced out in their boats to rescue him. They beat drums and splashed their paddles in the water to scare away the fish and prevent them from eating his body. Today, dragon boat races are held in memory of this heroic act.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is one of the biggest and most popular cultural events in Hong Kong. The festival features colourful dragon boat races, traditional Chinese food, music, and dance performances. The highlight of the festival is the dragon boat races, where teams of paddlers race against each other in long, narrow boats decorated with dragon heads and tails. The boats are rowed to the beat of a drummer, who keeps the paddlers in sync and sets the pace of the race. In the past, mainly fishermen competed in this competition,nowadays, it has become an international sport event and teams comprises of people from all walks of life, culture and ethnic groups.
After nearly a four-year hiatus, it is a welcoming news to know that we will be celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival once again! Get your sunblocks, mini fans and umbrellas out to keep you comfortable and cool as it is going to be crowded. The festival draws thousands of spectators from all over Hong Kong who come to watch the dragon boat races and enjoy the festive atmosphere. This year, the races will take place in Victoria Harbour, one of the most iconic and scenic locations in Hong Kong. The teams, which consist of 20 paddlers, a drummer, and a steerer, compete in a series of heats until the final race, which determines the winner of the championship. The races are fast-paced and exciting, with the boats reaching speeds of up to 15 kilometers per hour.
In recent years, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival has become increasingly popular around the world, with dragon boat races being held in many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. These races are often held in conjunction with local Chinese communities and are a great way to celebrate Chinese culture and promote international friendship and understanding. Apart from the dragon boat races, there are a variety of cultural activities which includes making rice dumplings (糭子), which are traditionally made by family and passed out as gifts. You can also easily purchase them in dim sum stores, some major hotels like Ritz Carlton that make them during the Dragon Boat Festival season! These rice dumplings are usually filled with meat (pork belly, chicken, roast duck and salted egg. Nowadays, the dumplings also come in both sweet and vegetarian forms, so you can pick the ones that fancy your taste.
In conclusion, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is a vibrant and colourful celebration of Chinese culture and tradition which is now celebrated by most of the Hong Kong residents. The festival is a great opportunity to experience the excitement of dragon boat racing, sample delicious Chinese food, and enjoy traditional music and dance performances. Whether you are a local or a visitor to Hong Kong, the Dragon Boat Festival is not to be missed! For more information about the celebration and information about the event, please feel free to visit the Hong Kong China Dragon Boat Association's Website
In case you are impressed by these teaser and want to actually join a dragon boat team and wondering what the sport is all about, please check out this article which explains clearly and briefly this awesome team sport!