Enter the dragon boats for a taste of colour

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 June, 2012, 12:00am


At today's Tuen Ng festival, hundreds of dragon boat teams will row their hearts out in long, decorated boats to the beat of thundering drums.

Traditionally celebrated in Chinese communities throughout East and Southeast Asia, dragon boat races now take place around the world. Yet Hong Kong still retains first place as the most popular dragon boat destination.

Races today will be held at Stanley Beach, Sha Tin, Aberdeen, Tuen Mun, Tai Po, Discovery Bay on Lantau Island, Sai Kung in the New Territories and on the outlying island of Cheung Chau.

The races at Stanley Beach, where more than 200 local and international teams will compete, usually attract the largest crowds.

Spectators should arrive early at the venues to find a good viewing spot, and treat themselves to some jung, rice and meat dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves that are a traditional Tuen Ng festival snack.

The festival commemorates the legend of one of China's earliest dissidents, the poet and statesman Qu Yuan (Wat Yuen in Cantonese) who drowned himself in the Miluo River near present-day Changsha , Hunan province, in protest against imperial corruption. Villagers rowed their boats into the river to try to retrieve him, all the while beating drums and dropping jung into the water to keep fish from devouring Qu Yuan's body.

A more traditional ritual with a distinctly local flavour is the Deities Parade at Tai O. Yesterday, local fisherman rowed statues of Chinese deities through the canals to visit four temples in the fishing village. Today, the fishermen will take the deities past homes along the canals, while residents burn incense and paper offerings.

For those who miss this weekend's action, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Association will stage a race on July 2 in Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui. All events are free and accessible via public transport.

Event times and locations available at: