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When Are The Dragon Boat Races?

Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Also known as Tuen Ng Festival (端午节) it is a lunar festival that is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, and so it falls on a different day each year in the western calendar

  • Dragon Boat Festival 2018: Monday, 18th June 2018.
  • Dragon Boat Festival 2019: Friday, 7th June 2019.
  • Dragon Boat Festival 2020: Thursday, 25th June 2020.
  • Dragon Boat Festival 2021: Monday, 14th June 2021

Local races are held to celebrate the festival at a number of locations around Hong Kong, most importantly at Stanley and Cheung Chau, but these are not the only races to be held.  As dragon boat racing has become accepted as a regular sporting events have been scheduled beyond the festival day itself.

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival is held on the weekend after the festival.  For the year 2018, it is scheduled to run from Friday the 22nd June 2018 through to Sunday the 24th.  The major events will be visible from the Central Harbourfront.

There are also individual dragon boat races held by different organisations all through the calendar. For a full calendar see the list maintained by DragonBoatHK.com, one of the major dragon boat organisations of Hong Kong.

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Why Do People Race Dragon Boats?

The racing of the dragon boats is part of the traditional stories about the origin of the festival.  According to the story, he threw himself into the water in 278 BC as a protest against the emperor.  As people had respected him and didn’t like the idea that his body would be eaten by the fishes they looked for a way to save him.

Drums on boats where beaten to scare away the fishes, while rice was thrown into the water to distract the fishes.  These ideas of drums on boats and rice soaked in water are supposed to be the origin of both the dragon boat racing and also the rice dumplings associated with the festival.

Today if you put people into boats and give them drums then, of course, they race to see who is faster.  The racing of the dragon boats has become a widely accepted sport not just in Hong Kong, or other Chinese communities but internationally as well.

The races today are held as a competition but are strongly associated with local communities.  Associations, schools and companies may create teams to participate in the dragon boat races.  Although there are no professional teams the many amateur teams are often very serious and train a lot. With sponsorship from large companies often seen in t-shirts and paddles.

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Where Are The Dragon Boat Races?

You can find Dragon Boat Races in many places in Hong Kong, but many of them are really local community events and there are little facilities for visitors or tourists to get involved.  Some of the races though are prepared for outsiders attending and these are the ones that are probably a better experience for the visitor.

Victoria Harbour, Central Harbourfront

If you missed the races on the actual festival day then don’t worry, because the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races, or Dragon Boat Carnival, is held the next weekend.  For 2018 it will be from Friday 22 through to Sunday 24 June and is a major event organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Authority together with corporate sponsors.

Turn up on any of the days to see races but do check the schedules beforehand if there is a particular part you want to see.  Races run all day from around midday on Friday through to the close at about 5:30 pm on Sunday.

A carnival atmosphere with food and drink stalls along the promenade makes this a great day out for the whole family, even if watching rowing boat races is not particularly your thing.

Stanley

The Stanley Dragon Boat Association organises a major competition every year held at Stanley Main Beach on the day of the festival. Competitors from all over Hong Kong come to compete. The main races on the festival day from early in the morning until around 5 pm in the afternoon.

In addition, Warm Up races are held on Saturday about one month before the festival.

A week after the main competition another event for Short Course Races is held.

For full details visit the association website.

Aberdeen

This fishing port on the south side of Hong Kong island is one of the traditional locations for dragon boat racing. Holding races on the festival day this is very much a community event organised by the Aberdeen Dragon Boat Committee.

Visit their facebook page to know more.

Saikung

http://www.skdragonboat.org/ – Main races

http://dragonboat-hk.org/ – Late summer races

Tai O

http://www.tai-o.com.hk/index.php

Shatin

Tai Po

Discovery Bay

http://ddeck.hk/

Other races around Hong Kong

https://our.pikapage.com/page?id=5a80f849fbfd24c56de70a7d#/

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three small dragon boats
Dragon boats
people gettng ready for the dragon boat race
Getting ready for the race!

Dragon boat race on dragon boat festival 2003

Big crowd gathered to watch dragon boat race
Pack full of audience