Hong Kong and Dragonboating
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Now starting to become one of the world’s rapidly growing sports, dragonboat racing is currently being practiced in more than sixty countries.
Dragonboating has its roots in an ancient Chinese ceremony. Hong Kong has modernized it and made it compelling for other countries to play and watch.
What is a dragon boat?
A dragon boat is a long slim paddle boat with a carved dragon’s head for its bow and a dragon’s tail as its stern. Two rows of paddlers move it. The drummer either sits in the middle or the front of the boat. The helmsman, on the other hand, stays at the back. A traditional dragon boat is made of wood while a westernized dragon boat is constructed out of fiber glass. The sizes of the boats vary according to the race by which they are being used.
Not for women?
The traditional dragonboat racing was meant for men. The dragon’s head on the bow symbolized virility, and menstruating or pregnant women were prohibited from touching it. The modern dragonboat racing that is sweeping across Hong Kong now includes female athletes.
History of dragonboating
Two thousand years ago, the Chinese worshipped sea deities by performing dragonboating. As a means of warding off “filthy air” and entertaing the gods, the Chinese timed the dragonboating races with the late spring celebration of the Tuen Ng Festival.
A quintessential detail in the history of dragonboat racing is the faithful statesman Qu Yuan, who had drowned himself in the river. In order to distract the fish from attacking Qu Yuan, the Chinese hurried to their boats and tossed rice dumplings into the water. Qu Yuan’s story is also honored by the annual dragonboat racing in China.
Dragonboat racing in the modern times
In 1976, Hong Kong played host to the world’s first dragonboat races which featured international delegates. This is the culmination of dragonboating in the contemporary milieu. Japanese dragonboaters competed with Chinese teams composed of fishermen. After 1976, Malaysia and Singapore sent their dragonboaters to Hong Kong to compete. In 1980, a spectacular dragonboat racing in Hong Kong was held on the River Thames.
Nowadays, dragonboating is a commonplace event in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has around 400 teams of dragonboaters, the largest in the world. The dragonboat racing season is between March and October. The period between late April and May gives the most riveting races against various fishermen teams in Hong Kong.