Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival Guide
ORIGIN & HISTORY
While there are several stories attributed to the origin of the Dragon Boat Festival, the best known version in modern China is that the Festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan (c. 340-278 BC), a renowned poet and royal minister from the Chu kingdom during the Zhou dynasty. The ruler of the Chu kingdom wanted to form an alliance with the Qin kingdom, which was believed to be a corrupt system, a decision that Qu Yuan opposed. He was accused of treason and was exiled by the king. For the rest of his life, Qu sought solace in poetry. Sadly, when Qin took over Chu’s capital 28 years after Qu was evicted, the poet fell into despair and ended up committing suicide. As he was drowning in the Miluo River, his followers raced out in their boats to save him. 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.
THE DRAGON BOAT RACE
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. Worshippers seek out the creature to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. 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.
Where: Stanley Main Beach
When: Friday, 3rd June 2022, 08h00 to 17h00
THE WATER PARADE
A tradition called the “Deities Parade” where members of the three fishermen associations in Tai O load deity images to small boats towed by three dragon boats. Watch the boats travel through various water channels as stilt house residents burn incense when the deities pass by, offering burning (fa yi) for the ghosts in the water and for blessing of the deities.
Where: Tai O Waterfront
When: Friday, 3rd June 2022, 08h00 to 14h00
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. Many restaurants around Hong Kong will have dedicated dumpling menus.