The Dragon Boat Festival (aka the Tuen Ng Festival) is an extremely popular event in Hong Kong. Colourful, dramatic, exciting and unforgettable, Dragon Boat Racing is celebrated annually on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month – sometimes referred to as ‘the double fifth’.
It was actually westerners who dubbed the competition ‘Dragon Boat Races’ because of the way the 10-metre-long teakwood crafts are rigged out with a dragon’s head and tail. Typically a crew will consist of 20 rowers plus one drummer at the helm and a ‘steerer’ at the rear end of the boat.
The paddling crew members sit facing forward and, unlike in other nautical racing craft, their oars are not rigged to the craft in any way. Race categories divide up into small boats, standard boats, open events, women’s events and mixed events.
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Dragon Boats Racing Highlights
The international race at Stanley is where the hottest dragon boat action takes place and has become the most renowned locally and internationally. Rewards for team costumes are also handed out and the whole day is a riot of colour and noise.
If, however, you miss the Stanley event it’s good to know that several other races take place in the same month throughout the Hong Kong Region.
Origins of Hong Kong's Dragon Boats Races
The most popular story explaining the origins of the Dragon Boat Races stems from the ‘ Warring States’ period in Chinese history when the poet and politician Qu Yuan drowned himself in protest against government corruption. The villagers who supported Qu paddled out in boats, banging drums and gongs to drive away any water creatures who tried to feed on his body, even throwing rice and dumplings in the water to distract the fish.
Nowadays of course, drums, gongs, and dumplings are very important factors in the Dragon Boat Racing Festival.
Dragon Boats Racing
- Location: Stanley is the most important venue but in the month of June you will find races in the greater region of Hong Kong
- Remarks: The Hong Kong Dragon Boats Festival is held yearly on the fifth day of the fifth month