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blogs / 07 JUN 2021

Dragon Boat Festival 2021

Sanny Linawati

dragon boat festival activities

Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Jie, is a traditional festival and celebrated in China and the Asian region.

Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated annually on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This year, it falls on 14 June and China will have three days’ public holiday from Saturday 12 June to Monday 14 June. During this long weekend, many will take the chance to travel to celebrate the festival with friends and family and visit major attractions.

Origin of Dragon Boating Festival

The festival traces back to more than 2,000 years ago, and one of the most popular stories associated with the festival is the legend of the patriotic poet, Qu Yuan.

Qu Yuan (340–278 BC) was a well known patriotic poet and politician in the late Warring States Period. After witnessing the collapse of his country, Chu State, he drowned himself in the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth Chinese lunar month. Hearing the woeful news, the local people sailed boats out to salvage his body and threw sticky rice dumplings (zongzi) into the water to prevent him from being eaten by sea creatures.

Ever since then, to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan each year, people beat drums and paddle out in boats on the river as they once did.

Dragon Boat Festival 2021 PrimaryImage

Dragon Boat Racing

Another tradition on this day is Dragon Boat racing, which has become a competitive sport in China. Dragon boats shaped and decorated in the form of a dragon, measuring 20 to 35 metres and requiring 30 to 60 people to paddle it, is a sight to behold.  During the races, dragon boat teams paddle harmoniously and hurriedly, accompanied by the sound of beating drums. It is said that the winning team will have good luck and a happy life during the following year.

Here are some popular spots to catch the races in major cities:

  • The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival: Victoria Harbor, Kowloon, Hong Kong,

  • Yueyang International Dragon Boat Festival: Yueyang Prefecture, Hunan Province

  • Guizhou Dragon Canoe Festival of the Miao Ethnic People: Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou Province

  • Hangzhou Dragon Boat Festival: Xixi National Wetland Park, Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province

Wrapping and Eating Sticky Rice Dumplings (Zongzi)

Due to the legend of Qu Yuan, Sticky Rice Dumpling (zongzi) are a traditional food eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival. They  are made of glutinous rice filled with meats, beans and other fillings, and wrapped with bamboo or reed leaves into a triangular shape (see picture). Many Chinese families have their own family recipes for wrapping the dumplings, often passed down from generations.

Impact to Relocation

The Dragon Boat Festival is a major holiday in China and international assignees should expect delays to their relocation in the lead up and during this holiday. Most businesses will be closed and major attractions in the cities will be crowded as people gather for the celebration. If you’re currently in China on assignment, it is also a good time for you to experience the exhilarating dragon boat race at one of the popular spots. If you are planning to travel or visit an attraction, please check with the local authorities on the latest Covid-19 guidelines as the measures and restrictions may change from time to time.

Headshot of Blog Author Sanny Linawati

Sanny Linawati

Sanny is the Global Director of Cartus Destination Services and currently based in Shanghai. She has more than 15 years of global mobility experience and leads the service delivery teams for the APAC region and oversees the account management and operations functions.