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Understanding the Dragon Boat Festival

  • Celebrated in many different countries, the Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most important annual events for Chinese communities around the world. Here we look at the story behind the festival, what's involved in dragon boat racing and more.


    If you’re thinking about visiting any of the Dragon Boat Festival celebrations taking place this year, don’t forget we’ve got a great selection of cheap hostels worldwide.

  • 1. When is the Dragon Boat Festival held?

    Every year, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar. In 2011, the festival falls on June 6th.

  • 2. What are ‘dragon boats’?

    Elaborately decorated dragon boats are one of the hallmarks of Dragon Boat Festival celebrations around the world. These colourful crafts are usually wooden boats featuring colourful dragon heads and tails. Dragon boats are approximately 10 metres long and generally hold a crew of 20-22. These crew members row the boat by hand to beat of the drum perched at the front of the boat.

  • 3. What’s the story behind the festival?

    Dating back around 2,000 years, the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Duanwu Jie. A traditional Chinese holiday, it is most frequently linked to Qu Yuan, a popular poet who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River as a protest against the corrupt leaders of his time. These days, the festival is mainly celebrated with dragon boat races. People also consume traditional festival foods like ‘zongzi’, which are rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

  • 4. Where is the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated?

    The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in China, where it was also made a public holiday in 2008. Other places where you’ll find enjoyable Dragon Boat Festival celebrations include Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia.

  • 5. Where can visitors enjoy the festivities in China?

    In the Chinese capital, Beijing you’ll find plenty of things going on during the Dragon Boat Festival. A number of lakes in and near the city host the ubiquitous dragon boat races. These include Houhai Lake at Yan Dai Xie Jie. After you’ve marvelled at the beautiful boats and caught a race, be sure to check out the area as it’s home to a great variety of shops, bars and restaurants.

    Book hostels in China | Book hostels in Beijing | Beijing video, free pocket guide and more

  • 6. What happens in Taiwan?

    If you’re in Taiwan, make sure to check out the Taipei International Dragon Boat Festival taking place from June 4th-6th. Held in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, this spectacular event is the largest dragon boat race in the country with in excess of 210 teams usually participating at Dajia Riverside Park. As well as the race, visitors can check out the carnival held at the same park. Traditional foods and activities can be enjoyed, with plenty to keep you entertained over the course of the festival.

    Book hostels in Taiwan | Book hostels in Taipei

  • 7. Are there any events in Hong Kong?

    There are. In Hong Kong, the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as the Tuen Ng festival and it is celebrated with a number of different events. On the day of the festival, the fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island is the place to be in Hong Kong. This is where you’ll witness the ‘Deities Parade’. During this parade a number of beautifully decorated dragon boats row through the village passing houses on stilts and travelling to four different temples. To get to Tai O, hop on the East Rail Line of the MTR and take it as far as the Sha Tin stop.

    Book hostels in Hong Kong | Hong Kong free pocket guide and more

  • 8. What happens in Macau?

    Well, the celebrations in Macau are centred on the Macau International Dragon Boat Races. Taking place this year from June 4th-6th, these races are held at Nam Van Lake, a man-made lake on the Macau Peninsula. Local and international teams compete in the races, manning a wonderful collection of elaborate dragon boats. As well as honouring the spirit of the Dragon Boat Festival, this event is now also an important sporting event in its own right.

    Book hostels in Macau

  • 9. Are there any events in Singapore?

    There are; however, the main dragon races don’t actually take place in Singapore until July 9th and 10th. These are held each year at the Bedok Reservoir and attract crowds of competitors and spectators. On June 6th, the Chinese community in Singapore will celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival by eating traditional foods like ‘zongzi’ and by enjoying other entertainment.

    Book hostels in Singapore | Singapore video, podcast, free pocket guide and more

  • 10. How do they celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival in Malaysia?

    Malaysia’s Chinese community celebrates with the usual traditional foods and entertainment. The best place to see the annual dragon boat races is Penang, an island off the west coast of Malaysia. In 2011, Penang is hosting the 32nd International Dragon Boat Festival on June 11th and 12th. Colourful boats in a variety of sizes and racing divisions take part in these races held at the Teluk Bahang Dam.

    Book hostels in Malaysia | Book hostels in Penang

  • One of the most important annual events for Chinese communities around the world, the Dragon Boat Festival is an intriguing mix of exciting dragon boat races, traditional foods and enjoyable entertainment. If you’re thinking about checking out any of the Dragon Boat Festival celebrations outlined above, don’t forget we’ve got a great selection of hostels in China, hostels in Hong Kong, hostels in Macau and more.

  • Photo by Omer Simkha, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

  • Celebrated in many different countries, the Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most important annual events for Chinese communities around the world. Here we look at the story behind the festival, what's involved in dragon boat racing and more.


    If you’re thinking about visiting any of the Dragon Boat Festival celebrations taking place this year, don’t forget we’ve got a great selection of cheap hostels worldwide.

  • 1. When is the Dragon Boat Festival held?

    Every year, the Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar. In 2011, the festival falls on June 6th.

  • 2. What are ‘dragon boats’?

    Elaborately decorated dragon boats are one of the hallmarks of Dragon Boat Festival celebrations around the world. These colourful crafts are usually wooden boats featuring colourful dragon heads and tails. Dragon boats are approximately 10 metres long and generally hold a crew of 20-22. These crew members row the boat by hand to beat of the drum perched at the front of the boat.

  • 3. What’s the story behind the festival?

    Dating back around 2,000 years, the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Duanwu Jie. A traditional Chinese holiday, it is most frequently linked to Qu Yuan, a popular poet who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River as a protest against the corrupt leaders of his time. These days, the festival is mainly celebrated with dragon boat races. People also consume traditional festival foods like ‘zongzi’, which are rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

  • 4. Where is the Dragon Boat Festival celebrated?

    The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in China, where it was also made a public holiday in 2008. Other places where you’ll find enjoyable Dragon Boat Festival celebrations include Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia.

  • 5. Where can visitors enjoy the festivities in China?

    In the Chinese capital, Beijing you’ll find plenty of things going on during the Dragon Boat Festival. A number of lakes in and near the city host the ubiquitous dragon boat races. These include Houhai Lake at Yan Dai Xie Jie. After you’ve marvelled at the beautiful boats and caught a race, be sure to check out the area as it’s home to a great variety of shops, bars and restaurants.

    Book hostels in China | Book hostels in Beijing | Beijing video, free pocket guide and more

  • 6. What happens in Taiwan?

    If you’re in Taiwan, make sure to check out the Taipei International Dragon Boat Festival taking place from June 4th-6th. Held in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, this spectacular event is the largest dragon boat race in the country with in excess of 210 teams usually participating at Dajia Riverside Park. As well as the race, visitors can check out the carnival held at the same park. Traditional foods and activities can be enjoyed, with plenty to keep you entertained over the course of the festival.

    Book hostels in Taiwan | Book hostels in Taipei

  • 7. Are there any events in Hong Kong?

    There are. In Hong Kong, the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as the Tuen Ng festival and it is celebrated with a number of different events. On the day of the festival, the fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island is the place to be in Hong Kong. This is where you’ll witness the ‘Deities Parade’. During this parade a number of beautifully decorated dragon boats row through the village passing houses on stilts and travelling to four different temples. To get to Tai O, hop on the East Rail Line of the MTR and take it as far as the Sha Tin stop.

    Book hostels in Hong Kong | Hong Kong free pocket guide and more

  • 8. What happens in Macau?

    Well, the celebrations in Macau are centred on the Macau International Dragon Boat Races. Taking place this year from June 4th-6th, these races are held at Nam Van Lake, a man-made lake on the Macau Peninsula. Local and international teams compete in the races, manning a wonderful collection of elaborate dragon boats. As well as honouring the spirit of the Dragon Boat Festival, this event is now also an important sporting event in its own right.

    Book hostels in Macau

  • 9. Are there any events in Singapore?

    There are; however, the main dragon races don’t actually take place in Singapore until July 9th and 10th. These are held each year at the Bedok Reservoir and attract crowds of competitors and spectators. On June 6th, the Chinese community in Singapore will celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival by eating traditional foods like ‘zongzi’ and by enjoying other entertainment.

    Book hostels in Singapore | Singapore video, podcast, free pocket guide and more

  • 10. How do they celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival in Malaysia?

    Malaysia’s Chinese community celebrates with the usual traditional foods and entertainment. The best place to see the annual dragon boat races is Penang, an island off the west coast of Malaysia. In 2011, Penang is hosting the 32nd International Dragon Boat Festival on June 11th and 12th. Colourful boats in a variety of sizes and racing divisions take part in these races held at the Teluk Bahang Dam.

    Book hostels in Malaysia | Book hostels in Penang

  • One of the most important annual events for Chinese communities around the world, the Dragon Boat Festival is an intriguing mix of exciting dragon boat races, traditional foods and enjoyable entertainment. If you’re thinking about checking out any of the Dragon Boat Festival celebrations outlined above, don’t forget we’ve got a great selection of hostels in China, hostels in Hong Kong, hostels in Macau and more.

  • Photo by Omer Simkha, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


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