From Africa to Europe, dragon boat races are spreading across the world

Events held as far afield as Uganda, Portugal and Slovenia, as state media describes annual festival as a ‘global holiday’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 June, 2018, 2:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2018, 11:09am

China ushered in its annual Dragon Boat festival on Monday with plenty of traditional pageantry and feasting, featuring rice dumplings, boat races, and parades, as state media touted celebrations of the holiday in far-flung places such as a high-profile dragon boat race in Uganda.

Besides festivities across the nation – from making zongzi, or glutinous rice dumplings, in northern China’s Inner Mongolia to dragon boat races in eastern China’s Jiangsu province – there were over 85 countries and regions celebrating with dragon boat races, news portal Thepaper.cn reported on Monday.

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Within China, people were expected to take an estimated 47 million trips during the holiday’s long weekend, an increase of nearly 8 per cent from the year before, state-owned operator China Railway said.

Global celebrations of the festival, which commemorates the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan, were described by Chinese state media as a sign of the country’s “cultural self-confidence”, a phrase the government has used repeatedly to boost Chinese culture and soft power.

“As a microcosm of the development of traditional Chinese culture, Dragon Boat festival customs are rich and colourful … passing on and highlighting the national spirit and cultural confidence,” Xinhua said in a front-page report. And the state-run People’s Daily newspaper said the Dragon Boat festival was now a “global holiday”.

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Confucius Institutes, which are dedicated to promoting Chinese culture and language, organised dragon boat races across the world, including in Portugal’s northern city of Aveiro and the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.

In the Ugandan city of Entebbe, a dragon boat race was hosted along Lake Victoria, the largest in Africa, attended by top officials from Uganda and China.

Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang and Ugandan Vice-President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi were at the opening ceremony to celebrate their bilateral relations and cooperation.

Wang said the two countries should “firmly stand together like dragon boat teammates”, while Ssekandi said Uganda was the first African country to hold a dragon boat race during the festival, Xinhua reported.