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Dragon Boat Festival: fun facts and festivities

The Loop HK
  • Written by The Loop HK, Images by The Loop HK
Dragon Boat Festival: Fun Facts and Festivities

Want to experience something unique in Hong Kong? The annual Dragon Boat Festival and its adrenaline-inducing races are quite the affair to remember. Whether you’re a Dragon Boat enthusiast or just a fan of zongzi dumplings — the food mascot of the festival complete with its own legend — at this time of year, make sure you’re not far from the water! Here’s a quick cultural guide to the event.

Off the water
  1. Dragon boating as a modern sport began right here in Hong Kong. The first international dragon boat races were held in 1976 in this city. A Japanese team was invited to compete alongside nine local teams — kickstarting modern-day dragon boat competitions around the globe. The event has grown over the years and eventually becomes Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races today.

  2. These days, most race-friendly boats are made out of fiberglass instead of wood, which tends to absorb water and weigh the boat down during races. The lighter, cheaper and more durable new design allows teams to compete on fair grounds and often result in exciting races.

  3. It’s certainly thrilling to watch teams race towards the finish line, but the start of the race is an equally gripping part of the competition. The first five strokes are the biggest indicator of team spirit: When you see teammates sharing the same rhythm and masterfully synchronising their energies, you know you’re witnessing something magical!

  4. Every year, multiple spectacular dragon boat races take place throughout the city, including high profile events such as the Stanley Dragon Boat Championships. On the day of the Festival (3 June), fierce-looking dragon boats would race in a lively spectacle in Stanley, a former fishing village that is now known for its sandy beach and popular waterside restaurants and bars. It is believed that the water carrying the dragon boats could bring you luck, so if you are there for the race, feel free to enjoy a lucky swim at the Stanley Main Beach!

  5. Dragon boating has been a long-standing tradition among fishing communities to appease the Gods. To appreciate this ritual up close, head to The Dragon Boat Water Parade of Tai O.

  6. Traditionally, zongzi, or rice dumplings, are enjoyed during the Dragon Boat Festival. Made of glutinous rice stuffed with fillings and wrapped by bamboo leaves, this Chinese dish is known for their savoury taste and usually filled with salted egg yolk, mung bean and pork belly. Modern versions, however, have emerged in recent years and offer luxurious ingredient upgrades such as abalone, conpoy and black truffles. Sweet, dessert-like rice dumplings are also very common, with fillings varying from traditional red bean pastes to new ingredients like tangerines or sweet potatoes.

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