China is a vast country rammed full of amazing things to interest and astound all but the most world weary traveller. Whether you want to make a one off trip to Hong Kong or add it to your world travel bucket list, one of the most colourful and dramatic events to witness has to be the Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu. It is a traditional celebration and public holiday which happens on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month each year. Obviously this means travellers hoping to see such an event need to be well planned and organised to ensure they don't miss this vibrant extravaganza.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival not only involves racing dragon boats, but eating traditional food such as rice dumpling (zongzi) which is wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves and steamed or boiled and, of course, drinking wine (xionghuangjiu). The origins of dragon boat racing centre around the legend of Qu Yuan-an early Chinese poet. It is believed that local people paddled out on their boats to retrieve Qu Yuan's body after his death. The eponymous dragons are used as totems for the boats because the Chinese believe they are the sons of dragons.
The Dragon Boat Festival is an incredibly popular event in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Southern Provinces of China in particular. In Hong Kong this annual Duanwu celebration has become one of the world's greatest. Think boats, think party, think plenty of boisterous noise and you'll be part way there to imagining the atmosphere. There's tremendous colour too as the boats are beautifully decorated.
Powered by determined rowers to the rhythmic beat of the drums, the racing spectacle will propel back you to the ancient history of this traditional festival. It's hard to believe that the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival has its roots in such tragic history as the death of Qu Yuan, but imagine if you can the fantastic view of dragon boats slicing through the choppy waters of Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong over 2,000 years ago. Although it's now lined with high rise buildings, you can almost imagine what it would have been like to be around at such a time.
The Dragon Boat Festival manages to combine tradition and modernity in a blaze of colour with just a splash of style. Visiting Hong Kong or Southern China just wouldn't be complete without experiencing it.
The annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival falls between late May and mid June. Seeing as it move because it happens on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month each year, you'll need to check specifically before you go.
Odds n' Ends
Admission to many of the dragon boat festivals are free. You may also find that as these festivals are now public holidays, other events may be combined. Be aware of local customs with regard to shop closures etc. too and check beforehand.
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