11 May, 2022
The Dragon Boat Festival What's On
The Dragon Boat Festival What's On
What's On HK

What To Know About The Dragon Boat Festival In Hong Kong

11 May, 2022
The Dragon Boat Festival What's On

Row row row your boat! You’ve probably heard of the Dragon Boat Festival, may have joined the celebrations and even cheered for the race, but how well do you know this ancient fête?

For some, it’s getting an adrenaline rush from watching the races, for others it may even be participating in the race and joining in on the festivities and, for the rest, it’s another day off in Hong Kong. This year, the Dragon Boat Festival falls on Friday, 3 June (yes, another long weekend!) but there’s more to the holiday than a race that draws the crowds. Read on to find out about its origins, the meaning behind the Dragon Boat race, customs, traditions and more.   

Read more: Public Holidays In 2022 – How to Maximise Your Annual Leave

The Dragon Boat Festival What's On

The Origins Of The Dragon Boat Festival

While the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in Hong Kong, Mainland China and across Southeast Asian countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia included), its origins come from Ancient China during the Zhou dynasty (1050–221 BCE). A poet named Qu Yuan from the Chu kingdom served as a high-ranking official for the royal household. The ruler of the Chu kingdom wanted to form an alliance with the Qin kingdom (believed to have had a corrupt system), a decision that Qu Yuan opposed. He was accused of treason and was exiled by the king.

28 years later, the Qin kingdom then eventually got its hand on Chu, and a despaired Qu Yuan retorted to ending his life by drowning in the Miluo River. Given that he was a respected figure by the general public of the Chu kingdom, his followers rushed in their boats to save him but couldn’t find his body. As a result, they started dropping balls of glutenous rice into the river so the fish would eat the rice balls instead of Qu Yuan’s body and banged gongs and drums to scare the fish away. And that’s how the tradition of the Dragon Boat Festival began.

Read more: Lunar New Year Traditions & Taboos Explained

Why A Dragon Boat?

The dragon is the only mythical creature amongst the 12 Chinese zodiac animals and is associated with royalty and believed to be rulers of the water element. The Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar (a month that’s considered inauspicious), with worshippers seeking the creature to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. The boat’s dragon head is also symbolic of the belief that the vessel will awaken the dragon from its slumber.

The Dragon Boat Festival What's On

Dragon Boat Festivities To Know

Dragon Boat Race

Pre-pandemic, almost 30,000 dragon boat racers from around the world would come to Hong Kong to compete, garnering a large crowd all ready to cheer. After the race, there would be a Dragon Boat Carnival along the Victoria Harbour promenade. If you want to participate in the race, you can sign up for the Stanley Dragon Boat Championships 2022 (the application deadline is Monday, 23 May). Other dragon boat teams and training centres include the Hong Kong China Dragon Boat Association and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.

Sassy Tip: If you want to beat the crowds and enjoy the race almost as if you’re participating in it, book a junk boat!

Rice Dumplings

To commemorate Qu Yuan, traditional sticky rice dumplings, known as zong in Cantonese and zongzi in Mandarin, are widely consumed. These pyramid-shaped dumplings are stuffed in either sweet or savoury ingredients (depending on the region you’re from) and are wrapped in bamboo leaves and tied together using string.

Read more: Your Guide To Dim Sum In Hong Kong

Where To Watch The Dragon Boat Race In Hong Kong

Read more: Your Neighbourhood Guide To Cheung Chau

The Dragon Boat Festival What's On

Where To Get Traditional Rice Dumplings In Hong Kong 2022

A number of Hong Kong hotels and restaurants are offering traditional rice dumplings to mark this year’s Dragon Boat Festival, each one coming in a variety of fillings.

Read more: Your Guide To Fine Dining In Hong Kong

Hero image courtesy of Samuel Wong via Unsplash, image 1 courtesy of Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell, Volume 3 by David Bellis, image 2 courtesy of Joshua J. Cotten via Unsplash, image 3 courtesy of The Legacy House.

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