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Chinese festival going global with dragon boats

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-06-20 14:48
[Photo/Xinhua]

The Dragon Boat Festival was celebrated among overseas Chinese communities worldwide over the weekend with the specialty food Zongzi, but not necessarily a dragon boat race, both widely seen as its logos.

Dragon boat racing is officially a competitive sport played under rules set by the International Dragon Boat Federation. This is something beyond what the Chinese people could imagine some 2,500 years ago when they took boats to distribute feed in a river trying to keep fish from disturbing the permanent rest of patriotic and beloved poet Qu Yuan, who chose to die along with his doomed country.

The move inspired a water sport and a rice food, and accidentally,changed the face and the name to be known abroad of an old Chinese festival focusing on health and epidemic prevention -- the 5th day of the 5th month of a Chinese lunar year which coincidentally marks the death anniversary of Qu.

A sport that has gone global

The Dragon Boat Festival this year fell on June 18. However, a dragon boat race nowadays takes place any time in a year in several countries.

It is one of Britain's fastest growing water sport as well as a highlight in London's cultural calendar. On June 3, the 23rd edition of the annual London Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival entertained 10,000 visitors.

Hundreds of players, among them teenagers, elders, amateurs and corporate employees, of 33 teams from across Britain paddled vigorously to the beat of each team's own drum and amid stormy cheers from the bank, competing for six cups at London's Regatta Center.

"I have never, ever experienced anything like it. I think it is amazing. I found it is really interesting, but honestly, I do not know much about it," Stephanie Ann, a local visitor coming with her family, told Xinhua.

On the sidelines, live music, traditional Chinese lion dances, and an Asian food market are among the diverse cultural activities contributing to the biggest dragon boat races in Europe.

In the United States, dragon boat racing is popular in cities including San Francisco, Kansas City and Boston. In New York City, it has become the largest local summer event.

The 28th annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York is scheduled for Aug. 11-12, and more than 200 well-trained teams will participate.

"I'm captain and drummer, we have a new steerer this year and we are moving into using the fiber glass boats instead of the timbre boats for the race," Julia Chesler told Xinhua after a three-hour team training recently on the Meadow Lake, the race venue.

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