Dragon Boat 101: Everything You Need to Know

The only crash-course on dragon boating you need to know

The Dragon Boat Festival is coming up this week, so it’s a good time to brush up on your knowledge of one of Hong Kong’s favourite sports. The iconic Sun Life Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships is held each year during the Tuen Ng Festival.

Read on to find out everything you need to know before going to your first dragon boat race.

Dragon boat  hong kong 2019 
The Basics
Dragon boat racing is a time-honoured tradition in Hong Kong and beyond, with a history that dates back almost 2,000 years. It’s steeped in tradition and is believed to have originated as part of ancient water rituals that honoured the Chinese dragon water deity. Today, the boats can accommodate teams ranging from eight to 20 rowers, a steers person and a drummer, and they’re ornately decorated. With enthusiastic drummers at the front of the boat to keep time, it’s a fantastic thing to watch.

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Dragon boat  hong kong 2019

The Festival
The Sun Life Stanley International Dragon Boat Championships is one of the biggest dragon boat competitions of the year. 269 teams (and 6,000 paddlers!) from around the world came to fight for gold last year, and this year promises to be bigger and better. There’s fierce competition, but a strong spirit of sportsmanship and levity as well. Last year there was an eco-friendly onsite carnival, with workshops and competitions for spectators.
 

What to Bring
If you’re going to Stanley to watch the teams compete, the only things you need to bring is patience and sunblock. 7 June is a Public Holiday in Hong Kong, so you can expect plenty of crowds – but on the plus side, that means there will be lots of entertainment at the carnival, and people watching to do at the beach. Grab a bite to eat or a nice cold beer and relax as the rowers go heat-to-head for that championship cup.

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Dragon boat  hong kong 2019

What to Eat
If there’s one thing you must eat during the Dragon Boat Festival, it’s zongzi. Zongzi are glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves, and they’re traditionally eaten during the festival. Legend holds that a beloved poet and minister, Qu Yuan, drowned himself in despair when his home city was captured by a warring state. The villagers tried to find his body, but it was never recovered. Desperate to protect him however they could, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river, to distract the fish. It’s a sad story, but we’re just grateful the dumplings are so delicious!

All photos are the rights of their respective owners. Dragon boating pictures from the Tai Tam Tigers team.
 

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