Sunday, 2 June 2013

D is for Dragon Boating

Every year in Hong Kong between late May and early June, everyone celebrates the Duen Ng festival.  The date commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a court official who served towards the end of the Chou Dynasty, but who fell out of favour.  To protest his exile and what was happening in his home state, he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself.

He was however quite popular, so the locals paddled their boats furiously to try to save him and threw food into the water to stop the dragons from eating him.  They failed.

The date varies as his death was on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month and the Chinese calendar varies according to the moon and sun cycles, unlike our Gregorian one.  But on the day of his death, people take to their dragon boats (basically a very heavy, wooden canoe) and indulge in parcels of sticky rice steamed in lotus leaves (and lots of drinking).

Boats get ready to set off in a race in Stanley, Hong Kong in 2010

In the UK, dragon boat racing's been held since 1980 and races take place in Cambridge, London, Peterborough, Nottingham and as far north as Chester.

This year it's on 12 June in Hong Kong, but on weekends either side of the date here in the UK.  Something else to do... 

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