Roaring through the waves
Dragon boat season is here again! Whether you’re powering through the water or lapping up the action on the shore, these events might float your boat. By James Kim and Jessie Lau
What better way to enjoy the spectacle of dragon boaters paddling through the waves than at one of the spots where it all began? Dragon boat racing is an ancient tradition in China – but some of the earliest races in Hong Kong were held in Aberdeen, near the typhoon shelter on the south shore – home to the Tanka (boat people). The fishermen there still keep up some of the traditional rituals such as wishing the dragon luck (祈福) and waking the beast up (醒龍) before the boats hit the water. Also, after the race, the head, tail and drums from the vessels are placed under the Ap Lei Chau Bridge and worshipped to thank the gods.
Jun 23, Aberdeen Promenade, 8.30am-4pm, free; www.aberdeendragonboat.hk.
East Tsim Sha Tsui
If you’re serious about the races, you’ll head to the Dragon Boat Carnival in East TST for the Club Crew World Championships (Jul 2 from 8am-4pm) and the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races (Jul 4-8 from 9am-5pm). But, if it’s a party you seek, then make a beeline for the beerfest at the UC Centenary Garden, where you can quench your thirst as the action happens nearby. Tasty food and live music are part of the festivities too. They’ve had a great turnout for the past two years and, with a livelier party atmosphere, we think it may soon become a rival to the Stanley fest.
Races on Jul 2 & Jul 4-8 at TST East promenade; beerfest on Jul 2 & Jul 6-8 at UC Centenary Garden from noon-9.30pm, free; bit.ly/Mwxvpy.
The fishing town of Tai O is richly steeped in tradition during Tuen Ng (Cantonese for the Dragon Boat Festival). In the Deities Parade, held on the morning before the big day, three groups of fishermen row their boats to temples and carry statues of deities back to their association’s halls for worship. On the day of the festival, the statues are then put on sacred sampans that are towed by dragon boats, parading through Tai O waters as a way to pacify wandering ghosts. Meanwhile, residents burn paper offerings as the boats pass by. The parade was identified as part of China’s cultural heritage last year, so it’s a great way to experience some tradition from days of yore.
Jun 23, 8am-2pm, free; bit.ly/LuzHsD.
Well, we couldn’t forget about the most popular boat race of all. The Stanley Dragon Boat Race was the first to be organised as a ‘sport’, with the debut festival taking place in 1976. We’d wager you probably know someone who’s taking part in one of the most eventful days in Stanley for the year. There’s an incredible turnout every year, with some teams dressing up in fancy dress, wigs and other sorts of colourful headgear. Similar to the festival in East TST, there will be ready-to-serve beer tents and after-parties with live music, dining, drinking and activities for the kiddies available at Stanley Plaza after the festival.
Jun 23, Stanley Main Beach, 9am-4pm, free.
Four Dragon Boat fest facts
Tuen Ng in Cantonese means the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar, corresponding to when the Chinese celebrate Tuen Ng fest.
In 2008, Tuen Ng was celebrated not only as a festival but also as a public holiday in the People’s Republic of China for the first time.
A traditional Tuen Ng game is trying to make an egg stand at exactly midday. Apparently, accomplishing this ensures you good luck for the next year.
Tradition tells us this day commemorates the suicide of famous poet and statesman Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in a river after his land was conquered by rivals. Apparently, Qu’s admirers paddled down the river in boats searching for him, then dropped sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves to feed him in the afterlife. The rice was wrapped so that fish wouldn’t nibble at what was meant for Qu’s sustenance.